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S. KOREA PLAYS WAR GAMES NEAR REMOTE, DISPUTED ISLET

SHARE S. KOREA PLAYS WAR GAMES NEAR REMOTE, DISPUTED ISLET

Air force jets swooped low and navy warships plowed through stormy seas Thursday as South Korea conducted a high-profile military exercise near a remote islet claimed by it and Japan.

Tension between the two neighbors has risen sharply in the past week after Japan renewed its claim to the rocky islet in the Sea of Japan - called the East Sea in Korea.Japan's move came as both countries prepared to declare exclusive, 200-mile economic zones in surrounding waters. The islet, about halfway between Japan and Korea, would fall in each country's zone.

South Korea, which controls the islet - called Tok-do in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese - reacted angrily, warning that it would take all necessary means to defend it.

Thursday's two-hour military drill involved three warships, an anti-submarine helicopter, a coast guard ship and four air force jets.

Almost simultaneously, 500 Korean War veterans shouting "Tok-do is our land!" rallied in front of the Japanese Embassy in central Seoul. They demanded that Japan retract its claim and apologize.

The veterans said the Japanese claim to the island is tantamount to "a second invasion of Korea." The Korean Peninsula was under Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945.

Although the Defense Ministry stressed that the military exercise was routine and small in scale, it was expected to further strain relations between South Korea and Japan.

A storm warning was in effect as the military exercise began. Officials said the exercise ended successfully, with air force jets dropping bombs at a test target.

The volcanic islet has been in dispute for nearly a century. The dispute resurfaced last week when South Korea was pushing plans to build a wharf on it.

Japan says it established military control over the islet in 1904 in its war with Russia.