A naval ceremony, a Japanese ship and qualms about a flagWhen a Japanese warship joins an international fleet review in South Korea next month, it will likely fly the flag of the Japanese navy.
In most military events, displaying a division’s insignia is par for the course, but Japan’s participation threatens to inflame the South Korean public because the naval ensign is also the one used by Japanese forces during World War II.
The Rising Sun, a red circle with pinstripes emanating from the center, is still associated with Japanese imperialism, and animosity over that historical period runs deep in Korea, where Japan exercised control of the peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
With Tokyo refusing to fully atone for its colonial-era misdeeds, including the recruitment of sex slaves for military brothels, many South Koreans continue to harbor uneasy feelings toward their neighbor, especially on military matters, despite the need for security cooperation in the face of threats from North Korea.
Japan’s persistent claim to South Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo has also added to the animosity.
Still, the South Korean Navy plans to include Japan in a fleet review from Oct. 10 to 14 on Jeju Island. About 20 foreign warships, including those from the United States, China and Japan, will participate. The military event, held every 10 years since 1998, is meant to promote harmony and world peace with the participation of naval vessels from many countries.
Past reviews have included Japanese ships carrying the controversial flag, a military source said, and a host country cannot ban ships from flying a certain ensign.
In the fleet review, the U.S. Navy plans to deploy four warships, including the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. The U.S. ships, however, will not stage any combined exercises with South Korea, a source said.
Russia plans to send three warships, India is set to deploy one and Thailand is sending two. About 10,000 foreign navy personnel are expected to attend.
During the review, a series of forums on maritime security and weapons systems will also take place.