Maritime Incident Highlights Tensions with Japan

      December 24, 2018 13:11

      The Japanese government is fuming after a South Korean Navy destroyer activated its radar in the process of rescuing a North Korean fishing boat last week. Tokyo is complaining that the destroyer aimed its radar at a Japanese Self-Defense Force surveillance plane that was monitoring the situation. The destroyer was responding to a distress signal sent by a North Korean fishing boat near Ulleung and Dokdo islands last Thursday. The Navy said it had no choice but use a more precise fire-control radar to locate the small boat and it had no intention of tracking the Japanese aircraft. Judging by the fact that the destroyer ended up rescuing the boat, it is clear that there was no intention to target the Japanese plane. Such an incident should not be an issue between allies.

      The only explanation is that Japan's pent-up frustration with Korea was released by the latest incident. Bilateral ties have deteriorated due to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's nationalist policies, Seoul's decision to scrap an agreement over compensating Korean women forced into sexual enslavement by imperial Japan, the Korean Supreme Court ordering Japanese businesses to compensate Korean forced laborers and other issues. The Japanese surveillance plane also apparently engaged in unusual maneuvers such as flying directly over the Navy destroyer. Any further escalation in tensions could result in a nasty stand-off between Korea and Japan that will benefit no one. Everyone needs to calm down.

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