SEOUL – Japanese and South Korean officials on Monday clashed over what Tokyo alleges was a South Korean warship’s directing of its fire-control radar onto a Japanese patrol plane flying over the Sea of Japan, in the latest sign of a deterioration in bilateral ties.
Kenji Kanasugi, director general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau of the Foreign Ministry, said he told his South Korean counterpart Kim Yong-kil during their meeting in Seoul that the incident on Thursday was regrettable and urged South Korea to take steps to prevent similar cases from happening.
The South Korean side, however, complained about Japan’s claim, saying that Tokyo is “making a case without clear confirmation of facts,” according to a South Korean Foreign Ministry official.
Tokyo has insisted that a South Korean destroyer directed its fire-control radar at a Maritime Self-Defense Force P-1 patrol plane on Thursday, calling it an “extremely dangerous act.”
Fire-control radar is designed to provide information about a potential target to a fire-control system that can direct weapons towards it.
South Korea has denied that the radar was used intentionally to track the Japanese plane and said that no actions were taken that would pose a threat to the MSDF. South Korean media has reported that the radar had been used to search for a North Korean ship in distress.
Kanasugi told reporters that the two countries will continue to hold talks on the issue, while saying he will convey Seoul’s position to the Defense Ministry.
The officials also talked about another diplomatic row linked to South Korean Supreme Court rulings ordering Japanese companies to pay compensation for wartime forced labor.
“For the time being, we will wait and see” how the South Korean government responds to the rulings, Kanasugi said.
The two sides have apparently avoided intensifying their conflict over the court rulings, with the two agreeing that they should not let their ties become further strained over the matter.
But Kanasugi said that South Korea did not present “any new perspectives” during the talks.
Japan sees the rulings as being in breach of international law, as it maintains the issue of compensation for wartime labor was settled under an agreement attached to a 1965 treaty that established diplomatic ties between the two countries.
In October, the Supreme Court in South Korea ordered Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. to pay 400 million won ($355,000) to four South Koreans for forced labor during Japanese colonial rule between 1910 and 1945.
The court then ordered Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. in November to compensate two groups of South Koreans over wartime forced labor.
As Nippon Steel failed to respond to a request from plaintiffs to begin compensation talks based on the ruling by the Monday deadline, lawyers for the plaintiffs said the same day it will decide when to seize the company’s assets in South Korea.