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International relations

Washington steers clear of Japan-South Korea radar row

Neither side inclined to back down three weeks after incident

An American fighter jet during military drills between the U.S. and South Korea. Washington so far has shied away from the dispute between its East Asian allies South Korea and Japan over an alleged radar lock.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japan and South Korea show no signs of resolving their radar lock dispute more than three weeks in, especially as the U.S. declines to act as a mediator between its allies.

A South Korean warship allegedly locked its fire control radar onto a patrol plane of Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force on Dec. 20. But the two neighbors have made conflicting claims on what happened, heightening tensions.

"It is important that we discuss the radar issue, but we should halt all other communication channels in the meantime," a member of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party said at a Friday meeting. Japanese and South Korean defense officials will hold a second meeting on the incident next week.

Tokyo says the South Korean vessel trained its fire control radar multiple times on the aircraft, which repeatedly hailed the ship on three different frequencies.

Seoul says the vessel pointed a camera at the plane, which was flying dangerously low over the ship and whose calls could not be heard over static.

The Japanese Ministry of Defense released video from the aircraft in late December in support of its claims, to which South Korea responded with its own video Jan. 4. The Japanese ministry's Joint Staff briefed the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command that day.

Washington is believed to be dismayed by the situation but remains hesitant to step in.

Tokyo still has not released details on the radio waves allegedly emitted by the radar -- information that could be cross-referenced with South Korea's data on its ships. The Defense Ministry here apparently had offered to exchange this information with Seoul at their first defense talks in late December but was refused.

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