Japan, S. Korea Agree to Speed up Talks after Radar Incident

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, right, shakes hand with South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup in Singapore on Sunday.

SINGAPORE (Jiji Press) — Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada and his South Korean counterpart, Lee Jong-sup, agreed Sunday to accelerate talks between the two countries’ defense authorities to prevent any repeat of incidents such as one involving a South Korean warship directing its radar at a Japanese ship.

“We discussed a full range of issues, including the radar incident,” Hamada told reporters after the meeting. “Japan intends to continue communicating with South Korea,” he added.

This was the first meeting between the defense ministers of Japan and South Korea in about four years.

In the high-profile incident in December 2018, when Moon Jae-in was in office as South Korean president, a South Korean warship directed its fire control radar at a Maritime Self-Defense Force patrol aircraft over the Sea of Japan.

Tokyo demanded that South Korea apologize over the incident and put in place measures to prevent a similar event. With Seoul denying the Japanese allegations, the two countries have remained at odds over the incident.

But the bilateral relations have been rapidly improving recently, with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and current South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol holding talks three times in and after March this year.

Defense exchanges between the two neighbors are also resuming. Bilateral security dialogue was held in April for the first time in five years. In late May, the Hamagiri destroyer of the MSDF made a port call in Busan in southeastern South Korea, flying the rising sun flag, regarded in South Korea as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism. The flag is the ensign of Self-Defense Forces vessels.

The United States is backing up the two East Asian countries’ fence-mending.

Meeting in Tokyo on Thursday, Hamada and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin confirmed a policy of promoting the collaboration with South Korea to beef up the three nations’ responses to ballistic missile launches and other provocative actions by North Korea.

On Saturday, the Japanese, U.S. and South Korean defense chiefs held a meeting in Singapore, on the sidelines of the Asia Security Summit, better known as Shangri-La Dialogue.