January 04, 2019 13:21
Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday discussed a presidential response to Japan's persistent complaints about a Navy destroyer activating its radar while rescuing a North Korean fishing boat last month as a Japanese spy plane flew overhead.
Tokyo claims that the South Korean ship aimed its radar at the surveillance plane, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a New Year's interview with the Asahi TV on Tuesday, "South Korea's activation of radar by a naval ship was a dangerous act, and the South Korean government should ensure this will not happen again."
Cheong Wa Dae in a press release after Thursday's meeting said the spy plane flew too close to the South Korean ship at too low an altitude and obstructed its mission to rescue the North Korean fishing boat.
"We discussed the seriousness of this incident and agreed to take necessary measures," a presidential spokesman here said. The Defense Ministry already demanded an apology from Japan on Wednesday.
The incident happened in waters near Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo, to which Japan maintains a spurious colonial-era claim, and that seems to be the unspoken core of Tokyo's ire.
The Japanese government claimed in the last days of 2018 that the Korean destroyer activated the radar with the intention of shooting at the plane. At first the Defense Ministry here refused to react, but when the Japanese government released audio footage of the incident, it changed its position and decided to release its own video rebutting the claim.
A diplomatic source said, "This would never have become such a big issue in the past, but now small incidents get blown out of all proportion."
The two countries are increasingly divided over historical issues, and Abe is keen to court nationalists at home amid plunging approval ratings.
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