Dialogue is the keyIt is regrettable that the ongoing brawl between Korea and Japan over a Korean destroyer’s alleged activation of a fire-control radar (FCR) towards an approaching Japanese aircraft is being intensified after Japan last week made public a video clip showing the tense moment on the high seas, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) to the northeast of the Dokdo Islets in the East Sea. Tokyo released the video, claiming that it backs its claim. But the timing is bad, as Japan disclosed it just as both sides prepared to address the issue through dialogue.
If Japanese media reports that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered the Ministry of Defense to release the video to elevate his declining approval rating are correct, he should be criticized. Both Seoul and Tokyo must cooperate with one another in the face of North Korea’s unmitigated nuclear and missile threats. If the media’s report is correct, Abe’s instruction only contributes to deepening the friction between the two neighbors in spite of their common threat.
The question boils down to whether the Gwanggaeto the Great Class (KDX-I) destroyer really aimed its FCR toward a Japanese patrol aircraft. Usually, the radar is used shortly before a warship fires a missile at a flying target. But if you watch the video clip closely, it does not offer any clear evidence that the destroyer activated the radar to aim for the patrol airplane. Japan is refusing to disclose the frequency band of the radar as it constitutes “military secrets.” If Tokyo’s argument is correct, it must release the information about the frequency band to prove the authenticity of its claim. At the same time, Seoul also must present indisputable evidence that the destroyer did not aim the radar at the aircraft.
If both sides can find the truth behind the case, the party responsible for misinformation should apologize and resolve the conflict as soon as possible. Korea and Japan are the only two free democracies in East Asia. It is not desirable for either side to slander the other at a time when they must closely cooperate to deal with the North Korean nuclear threat.
In Japan’s Dec. 18 review of national defense, Korea was ranked fifth, down from second place, as a security partner of Japan, after the United States, Australia, India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. In geopolitical terms, it is not wise for Tokyo to dismiss South Korea as one of its pivotal security partners.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 31, Page 30