MSDF Chief: Ties Outweigh Truth behind Radar Incident

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
MSDF Chief of Staff Adm. Ryo Sakai

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The head of the Maritime Self-Defense Force said Tuesday that establishing a Japan-South Korea cooperation system for the future at an early date is more important than pursuing the truth behind the 2018 radar lock-on incident.

MSDF Chief of Staff Adm. Ryo Sakai made the remarks at a regular news conference after Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada and his South Korean counterpart, Lee Jong-sup, agreed the previous day to hold working-level talks on preventive measures while effectively shelving fact-finding efforts over the incident, in which a South Korean warship allegedly directed a fire control radar at an MSDF patrol plane.

The South Korean Navy’s denial of the allegation has made the MSDF suspicious and stop conducting joint drills.

During Monday’s meeting, Hamada and Lee also agreed to place priority on strengthening cooperation in dealing with North Korea.

“It’s important for Japan, the United States and South Korea to contribute to stability of the region through promoting preventive measures,” Sakai said.

“Establishing cooperation [with the South Korean Navy] early will also serve [Japan’s] national interests,” he also said.

As a concrete measure, he proposed creating a system that allows vessels and aircraft of the MSDF and the South Korean Navy to comfortably carry out their own missions in the same seas.

While acknowledging that there is a discrepancy between Japanese and South Korean views on the 2018 incident, Sakai underscored the importance of preventing similar incidents and building a relationship of trust.

“When Tokyo and Seoul manage to reach an agreement on preventive measures, I will have the rest of MSDF members understand my thoughts,” he said.