All national dailies reported on Saturday that Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya said at a news conference on Friday that the Japan Maritime Defense Force will not participate in an international naval review to be held this week in South Korea because Seoul has requested Japanese vessels not to display the rising sun flag. The flag has long been recognized under international law as indicating that a vessel is Japanese, but South Korea claims that the flag symbolizes Japan’s wartime aggression and has asked Japan and other participating countries to only raise their national flags during the event. Referring to the decision not to participate in the event scheduled to start on Wednesday off South Korea’s southern island of Jeju, Iwaya said that this is extremely regrettable. Yomiuri wrote that the episode demonstrates the difficulty in promoting defense cooperation between Japan and South Korea despite the fact that the United States has been calling for enhanced trilateral defense cooperation with its two key allies in Asia in the face of the DPRK’s rapid development of nuclear and missile programs.
While pointing out that this year marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Japan-ROK partnership declaration in 1998, Sunday’s Sankei wrote that Seoul has recently taken a series of actions that run counter to the declaration’s forward-looking spirit, including not allowing MSDF ships to hoist the rising sun flag.