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International relations

Japan urges South Korea to prevent repeat of radar lock-on

Seoul denies any threat as tensions flare

A South Korean destroyer allegedly trained its fire control radar on a Japanese patrol plane for several minutes last week, stoking further tensions between the two countries.   © Reuters

SEOUL -- Japanese and South Korean diplomats met Monday to discuss last week's incident in which a South Korean military vessel allegedly locked its fire control radar onto a Japanese plane, as Seoul maintains that there was no real threat to Japan.

Kenji Kanasugi, director-general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau at Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, met with South Korean counterpart Kim Yong-kil for about an hour and a half at the South Korean Foreign Ministry. Defense officials from both countries also attended.

The Japanese side called the incident regrettable and asked South Korea to prevent something like it from happening again. Seoul expressed frustration that Tokyo had "made a case without clear confirmation of facts." They agreed on the importance of communication between defense authorities.

Japan maintains that a South Korean destroyer locked a fire control radar on a Maritime Self-Defense Force patrol plane for several minutes on Thursday, calling it an "extremely dangerous" act that could have had unexpected consequences.

But South Korean Ministry of National Defense deputy spokesperson Lee Jin-woo said Monday that "there was no action that would have made Japan feel threatened."

The Japanese plane made the "unusual" move of flying above the ship, so the ship pointed an optical camera for a radar being used to search for a North Korean vessel in distress, an official from South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said. But the official stressed that no radio waves were emitted in the process. Radio communication from the Japanese aircraft asking about the ship's intent was apparently spotty and practically undecipherable.

Kanasugi and Kim also discussed recent Supreme Court rulings here ordering Japanese companies to compensate South Koreans forced to work for them during World War II. "We exchanged various opinions, but there were no new viewpoints from South Korea," Kanasugi told reporters after the meeting.

South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon is leading efforts for a government response. But how the two countries can close their gap is unclear, as Tokyo holds that Seoul should be responsible for any compensation to the laborers, based on the 1965 pact that normalized bilateral ties.

This marked the first meeting between high-ranking officials from both sides since the Supreme Court here ruled in October against Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal.

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