South Korea mulls ‘past history’ with Japan while considering invitation to review fleet

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin welcomes South Korean Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-sup for talks at the Pentagon in Washington, DC on July 29, 2022. (Lisa Ferdinando/DOD)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — South Korea’s Defense Ministry is considering an invitation from Japan to hold a naval fleet review together, but old enmities and unresolved differences stand in the way, according to South Korea’s defense minister. Defense.

South Korea is determined to establish “future-oriented” ties with Japan and their military relations “should be improved” if mutual cooperation, as well as that of the United States, can strengthen security in the region, said South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup. told Yonhap News on Wednesday.

“Japan-[South Korea] defense cooperation is influenced by the overall relationship between Japan and South Korea,” he said. “The conditions for improving Japan-[South Korea] the links are being established.

But cooperation between the two countries has been hampered by long-standing territorial and historical differences, Lee said.

For decades, the two countries have feuded over the recognition of South Korean comfort women forced into prostitution by Imperial Japan during World War II.

Surviving victims and South Korean lawmakers from all political walks of life have alleged that previous apologies by Japanese officials have failed and demanded that their government officially acknowledge its story.

” Japan-[South Korea] relationship is still in a difficult situation due to issues in its past history,” Lee said. “Our people would view with discomfort if our navy paid tribute to the Japanese naval fleet with the flag of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force, which is similar to the flag of the rising sun, during our navy’s participation in the review of the international naval fleet.”

Another unresolved dispute involves a South Korean warship allegedly targeting a Japanese patrol plane with radar in 2018, Lee said.

“Assertions made by both parties remain separate as to how the incident occurred,” Lee said.

The Japanese Ministry of Defense alleged that a South Korean destroyer used its fire control radar to lock onto a Japanese P-1 patrol in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. The South Korean Defense Ministry denied the claim and said its destroyer saw the plane through an optical camera while conducting a rescue operation.

Japan is also due to hold its International Naval Fleet Review in November.

South Korea, the United States, China, Australia and several other countries have been invited to present their naval assets during the review of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force, which takes place once every three years.

The South Korean navy has taken part in the review three times, most recently in 2015, according to NavalNews.com. He was not invited in 2019 due to the “very tough” relations between the two countries, Maritime Self-Defense Force Chief of Staff Hiroshi Yamamura reportedly told a press conference this year. the.

Lee said the Defense Ministry has not decided on Japan’s invitation.

“Based on a combination of public sentiments, international standards, etc., we will carefully consider the matter with relevant government departments,” Lee told Yonhap News.

The North Korean website Uriminzokkiri published a column on Friday denouncing the examination of the Japanese fleet. The column criticized attendees for paying tribute to the Japanese Navy, which is represented by a rising sun flag.

“Innocent people have been brutally slaughtered by the aggressors of Japanese imperialism carrying guns and spears with the flag of the Rising Sun…,” the column reads. “Therefore, the flag of the Rising Sun has been considered the symbol of aggression, depredations and evil towards our people and humanity…”