Japan holds Korean Navy invite

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Japan holds Korean Navy invite

Tokyo has been holding off on inviting the South Korean Navy to take part in the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s naval review slated for October, reported Sankei Shimbun on Monday.

Seoul and Tokyo have been facing strains in bilateral ties over historical issues, including the Korean Supreme Court’s decision ordering Japanese companies to pay victims of forced labor during its colonial rule (1910-45), and also a radar controversy at the end of last year.

Sankei, quoting several government officials, said this move was because of various defense tensions including Tokyo’s accusation on Dec. 20 that a Korean destroyer had locked its fire-control radar onto a Japanese patrol plane. Seoul refuted the claim, explaining that the destroyer had only been on a rescue mission to save a North Korean vessel.

Tensions further escalated last month after Japanese aircrafts repeatedly flew at low altitude near Korean ships in three separate incidents, which Seoul’s Ministry of National Defense called a “clear provocation.”

The Sankei newspaper reported that the naval review happens once every three years and that it invites naval vessels and aircrafts of “friendly nations.”

Korea deployed its Navy’s Dae Jo Young destroyer to take part in Japan’s naval review held in 2015, which was also attended by countries, including the United States, Australia, India and France.

Sankei reported that for the 2019 naval review, Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force has been extending invitations to the United States, Australia, India, Singapore and even regional rival China, however has yet to invite South Korea. It cited a Japanese defense official as saying that “if Korea takes an active response to the radar issue, it may invite Korea, but it will be difficult if the current situation continues.”

A ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker was also quoted by the paper as saying that the naval review is a “big event” that will be attended by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and that if Korea is invited, it would “send the wrong message that Japan has already forgiven Korea for the radar controversy.” The lawmaker added that without Korea acknowledging that it had targeted the radar and apologizing for it, “there can be no invitation.”

Roh Jae-chun, a deputy spokesman of Seoul’s Defense Ministry, said in a briefing on Monday on the reports that Korea has not been invited to take part in Japan’s naval review in the fall, “We have currently not received any official confirmation from the Japanese government.”

Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya was reported by Asahi Shimbun on Saturday as saying that Japan will not send a destroyer to take part in an international maritime security exercise in Busan in late April, though it will take part in the rest of the exercises.

Some 18 countries - including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) - will take part in this naval event, which runs from April 29 to May 2 in waters off Busan, then from May 9 to 13 in waters off Singapore.

The paper indicated this was in response to the Korean Defense Ministry confirming last week that Japan will not deploy any vessels to the drills in Busan.

Last October, Japan withdrew from an international fleet review hosted by South Korea after refusing Seoul’s request for its vessels not to hoist its “rising sun” flag, used by Japan’s Imperial Japanese Army during colonial rule and World War II and remains to many as a symbol of the country’s wartime aggression. Seoul instead encouraged participating countries to display their national flags along with the South Korean flag.

Should Japan send its naval vessels to Busan, it would carry the rising sun flag.

BY SEO SEUNG-WOOK, SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
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