Despite some heartening developments at APEC, territorial disputes in the Pacific look to be here to stay. Seoul announced that it will continue holding regular military drills on the Liancourt Rocks, a remote group of islets that are controlled by South Korea but also claimed by Japan.Until now, the long-simmering dispute looked to be cooling down, due to Seoul’s announcement that it was cancelling plans to develop the Liancourts, including a plan to build an airport announced in April. But this latest announcement is sure to raise the temperature again. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Korean military maneuvers, which date back to the 1980s, have always drawn complaints from Tokyo. The islets, called Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan, have long been a source of disputes.The military “would not compromise on the exercise to protect the territory of the Republic of Korea” by conducting the drill as planned this month, Deputy Defense Ministry Spokesman Wee Yong-sub said Friday.The maneuvers usually involve airlifting a squad of Korean marines to the disputed islets to defend against simulated outside forces approaching by sea or air, backed by navy destroyers, coastguard patrol ships and fighter jets, according to defense officials in Seoul.
Seoul’s announcement comes in the wake of a diplomatic scuffle over South Korean singer Lee Seung-chul. The singer performed a small concert on one of the Liancourts recently, and then was detained and denied entry at the airport in Tokyo. He was offered no official explanation.Cases like this appear to be small, but they are part of a dangerous tapestry of tripwires that could set off conflagrations with any misstep. Make no mistake: the Asian Game of Thrones is still on.