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International relations

Japan and South Korea sit down to defuse radar dispute

Defense officials meet in Singapore, but stick to their positions

South Korea maintained in Monday face-to-face talks that its warship did not lock a fire control radar on a Japanese P-1 patrol plane.
A Japanese P-1 maritime patrol aircraft fires flares during a fleet review. South Korea denies that one of its warships locked fire-control radar on a P-1 plane in the Sea of Japan last month.   © Reuters

SEOUL -- Japanese and South Korean defense officials failed to reconcile their differences on Monday during their first face-to-face talks over a radar incident at sea last month that has added to bilateral tensions.

Seoul maintained its denial that a South Korean warship trained a targeting radar on a Japanese maritime patrol plane in a Dec. 20 encounter in the Sea of Japan.

"We were unable to resolve gaps in our understanding" of the incident, said a representative of Japan's Ministry of Defense following the meeting in Singapore. The talks were held in a third country in hopes of easing tensions.

Both countries gave detailed explanations of the facts and their positions on the incident, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense said.

The Japanese side was prepared to show radar data to back up its claim that its patrol plane was targeted. But the data was not produced at the meeting, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported. The two sides intend to continue talking, though no further meetings have been scheduled.

Leading the Japanese delegation were Takeshi Ishikawa of the Ministry of Defense's Defense Policy Bureau and Lt. Gen. Atsushi Hikita, director general of the Operations Department of the Self-Defense Forces' Joint Staff Office. The Korean side was led by Lee Won-ik, director-general for international policy at the Defense Ministry, and Vice Adm. Boo Suk-jong, chief director of military support for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The two sides spent the morning at the South Korean Embassy in Singapore from around 9:30 a.m., then moved in the afternoon to the Japanese Embassy, where talks continued until about 8 p.m.

Tokyo says it has confirmed that the South Korean destroyer locked its fire-control radar multiple times on the P-1 patrol plane, while Seoul has demanded an apology for what it has called a "threatening" low-altitude flight by the aircraft.

The dispute comes at a time when both sides are already at odds over South Korean court rulings that Japanese companies must pay compensation to Koreans who were forced to work during World War II.

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