Korea will conduct a scaled-back military exercise in waters near the easternmost islets of Dokdo later this week with no Marine Corps landing maneuvers on the islets.
The decision came as tensions between South Korea and Japan have been running high over Dokdo since President Lee Myung-bak made an unprecedented visit to the East Sea islets that Japan has claimed as its territory.
Despite the tensions, Seoul earlier announced that it will go ahead with a four-day biannual drill in waters near Dokdo set to kick off Friday, where the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard will conduct a joint operation to repel an encroaching vessel.
Previous exercises sometimes involved Marines rappelling onto the islets from helicopters if the weather was right. But this year's drills won't include any landing operations, a senior military official said.
The Coast Guard will play a leading role in defending Dokdo under this year's scenario, while the military will provide support in practicing for a situation where civilians illegally land on the islets.
"The military will not mobilize the Marine Corps on Dokdo as there are higher possibilities of foreign civilians illegally landing on Dokdo than" foreign militaries approaching the islets, the source said, asking for anonymity as he is not allowed to talk about military information.
The latest move comes as South Korean police have stepped up security on Dokdo and nearby Ulleung Island following Lee's visit, in case conservative Japanese activists attempt to make visits to the adjacent islets without the South Korean government's approval.
The islets located some 130 kilometers off the country's east coast are currently under Korean control. A small police detachment has been stationed there to enforce South Korean sovereignty since 1954. (Yonhap)