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Flag controversy throws cold water on ties

The Yomiuri Shimbun The Maritime Self-Defense Force’s withdrawal from a planned international fleet review off Jeju Island, South Korea, over a flag controversy has brought attention to the difficulty in promoting security cooperation between Tokyo and Seoul.

The Defense Ministry declined to participate after South Korea suddenly refused to permit the MSDF to display its rising sun flag during the review.

“We repeatedly explained Japan’s position, but the South Korean side did not accept it. It is extremely regrettable. [We arrived at the decision] because of concerns over aggravating [the issue],” Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters at the ministry on Friday.

While the government places importance on bilateral defense cooperation with South Korea, it was unwilling to meet Seoul’s demands and forced to make a tough decision.

In response to the rapid development of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, the United States has urged its allies Japan and South Korea to promote trilateral security cooperation, and the Self-Defense Forces have held active exchanges with the South Korean military.

The international fleet review, scheduled for Thursday, was intended to deepen mutual understanding through events involving the crews of vessels from various countries. The South Korean Navy invited the MSDF to participate in October 2017.

South Korea is thought to have begun perceiving the rising sun flag as problematic relatively recently.

In April of last year, Japanese supporters displayed a rising sun flag at a soccer match in South Korea featuring Kawasaki Frontale, a club in the J.League first division. As a result, the Asian Football Confederation ordered Frontale to play a home game without spectators.

In 2014, an exhibition in Seoul featuring the popular Japanese manga “One Piece” was suspended because of images in the manga reminiscent of the flag.

A bill to prohibit the use of the rising sun flag has repeatedly been submitted to the South Korean parliament. Democratic Party of Korea members and other lawmakers presented the bill to parliament again on Tuesday ahead of the fleet review.Speech

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