Aerial incident reignites tensions between Japan and South Korea

For the fourth time in a month, the South Korean authorities protested after a Japanese patrol plane flew near one of their ships on January 23, 2019. Seoul military deemed it a “clear provocation.”

The incident happened near the Korean island of Jeju, 85 km south from the Korean peninsula. “These clearly constitute provocative acts against a ship of an ally and we strongly condemn them,” said General Suh Wook, of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a conference, adding “if these kinds of flights continue, the military will take strong countermeasures in line with its codes of conduct.”

The relations between Seoul and Tokyo, tense since at least the Second World War, have worsened lately. This recent episode is the latest in long series that dates back to December 20, 2018, when a Kawasaki P-1 maritime patrol plane of the Japanese Self Defense Force (JSDF) reported being locked by the fire control radar of the Korean destroyer “Gwanggaeto The Great”. A video of the incident was released publicly.

The Korean Ministry of National Defense has since defended itself, claiming that the warship, along with the coast guard vessel, “Sambongho 5001” were carrying out a rescue operation of a North Korean fishing boat, and that the radar was used to locate the distressed ship.

Three other incidents of Japanese patrol planes flying close to South Korean assets were recorded since then, including the one on January 23, 2019. Negotiations between the two countries were engaged but later interrupted on January 21, 2019, after the Japanese Defense Ministry concluded that South Korea’s denial of an alleged radar lock on a Japanese patrol plane was “baseless”.


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