The Defense Ministry plans to cancel a port call by its Izumo helicopter carrier in South Korea this spring amid growing tensions between the two countries over alleged risky moves by each of their militaries, a Japanese government source said Saturday.
The Maritime Self-Defense Force was to dispatch several vessels, including the Izumo, to Busan to take part in a joint exercise to be held when defense ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and its regional partners meet in the South Korean port city, the source said.
Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya also indicated Japan’s reduced contribution to exchanges with South Korean defense authorities.
While stressing the need for maintaining such exchanges, Iwaya told reporters in Oita Prefecture that Tokyo will “judge from time to time which way is the most appropriate.”
A senior ministry official said “There’s no sign of improvement in relations with South Korea. Defense cooperation is likely to be restrained for the time being.”
Japan and South Korea have remained in dispute over whether a South Korean Navy destroyer locked its fire-control radar on a Japanese patrol aircraft in the Sea of Japan on Dec. 20.
The Japanese ministry concluded Monday that South Korea’s denial is baseless and that it cannot continue bilateral defense talks on the incident.
In a separate case, South Korea released photos Thursday claiming that a Japanese patrol plane flew at a “threatening” low altitude over a South Korean Navy ship in international waters the previous day.
The standoff added to bilateral tensions triggered by the recent rulings by South Korea’s top court that ordered Japanese firms to compensate for wartime labor by Korean workers.
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