Published: Sun, October 07, 2018
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

Japan to skip fleet review ceremony amid flag row with Korea

Japan to skip fleet review ceremony amid flag row with Korea

Japan decided yesterday to cancel plans to participate in an global fleet review in South Korea, after Seoul demanded the removal of a controversial naval flag from Tokyo's warship.

Japan's decision comes after South Korea this week asked participating countries not to fly flags at the bow or at the stern of their vessels, Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters. Many people in both Koreas see the red-and-white flag as a symbol of Japan's past military aggression and its colonization of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

The South Korean Navy earlier informed participating nations that they should raise their national flags and the flag of the host country.

Japan's absence in the global fleet review is "regrettable and the decision should not affect maintaining the promising ties between the two countries' Navies", they said. Easily recognized flags for warships have always been considered both a proud tradition and a practical necessity on the high seas, although presumably no one involved in the fleet review next week would fail to recognize Japan's ships without it.

The event next week is not a military exercise, but a fleet review, essentially a seagoing parade meant to demonstrate global unity.

Japanese officials say the flag, which portrays a red sun with 16 rays extending outward, is mandatory for Japan's naval ships under domestic laws. The flag also serves to identify the nationality of Japanese naval vessels under global maritime law, he said.

The "Rising Sun" ensign, used by the Japanese Imperial Navy in campaigns around Asia and the Pacific before and during World War Two, was adopted by the Maritime Self-Defence Force in 1954.

South Korea's navy on Thursday denied a local report that it was considering having President Moon Jae-in board a South Korean warship named after the disputed eastern islets of Dokdo during the fleet review in hopes of nudging Japan to voluntarily withdraw from the event.

Tokyo-based broadcaster NHK likewise reported that the Japanese government, in response to the Korean government's request not to hoist the rising sun flag, citing public sentiment, conveyed to the Korean side its position to "delay the deployment" of its warship.

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