National

South Korean warships visit Japan port after row over wartime flag

Kyodo

Three South Korean warships made a goodwill visit Monday to a Nagasaki Prefecture port, following a bilateral spat last month over Seoul’s demand that Tokyo refrain from flying its Rising Sun flag, which was used during World War II, at a naval review.

The vessels, including the 4,400-ton destroyer Dae Jo Yeong, were welcomed at the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Sasebo base, marking the first arrival of the country’s warships at a Japanese port since Tokyo withdrew from the review held off Jeju Island in October over the flag row.

Referring to various security challenges faced by the two countries, Vice Adm. Satoshi Kikuchi said at a welcoming ceremony, “It is important to promote mutual understanding and build trust to effectively deal with the issues.”

The South Korean fleet is scheduled to leave Sasebo on Thursday.

The Rising Sun flag was used by the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy during World War II, and is thus regarded in South Korea and China as a symbol of Japan’s wartime aggression. But Tokyo maintains that the Rising Sun flag has long been recognized under international law as indicating that a vessel belongs to Japan, and that MSDF ships are required to fly the flag under Japanese law.

In August, South Korea told Japan and other countries that their warships should only fly their national flag and that of South Korea during the international event. Tokyo pulled out of the event, stating that Seoul’s request was “unacceptable.”