Japan, South Korea hold 1st defense chief talks in 3 years as ties improve

Photo: english.kyodonews.net
SINGAPORE. KAZINFORM - Japan and South Korea on Sunday held their first defense ministerial talks in over three years in Singapore, in a sign of improving bilateral relations amid the threat posed by North Korea's missile and nuclear development programs, Kyodo reports.

Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada and his South Korean counterpart Lee Jong Sup are likely to discuss how to recover mutual confidence between defense authorities in the wake of an incident in 2018 in which Japan claimed that a South Korean navy vessel directed a fire-control radar at a Japanese Self-Defense Force plane.

The ministers met on the fringes of the three-day Asia Security Summit held in the Southeast Asian city-state from Friday, also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue. Defense chiefs of the two East Asian neighbors previously met in November 2019 in Thailand.

Bilateral ties have been rapidly improving since South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol proposed a solution to a longtime dispute over wartime labor compensation in March. Relations had sunk to their lowest point in decades under Yoon's predecessor, Moon Jae In.

Yoon visited Tokyo later that month and hosted Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Seoul last month, in a resumption of reciprocal visits by Japanese and South Korean leaders that had been halted since December 2011.

With North Korea repeatedly test-firing ballistic missiles since last year, Yoon, who took office in May 2022, has focused on the importance of trilateral defense cooperation also involving the United States, Japan and South Korea's common security ally.

Last week, an SDF ship flying the rising sun flag, which was labeled by Moon's administration as a symbol of Japan's wartime militarism, entered South Korea to join an international naval drill, suggesting that Seoul no longer regards the flag as problematic.

In the alleged 2018 incident, Tokyo says a South Korean destroyer directed its radar onto an SDF airplane in Japan's exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan in December of that year. Seoul, however, denies the allegation.

On Saturday in Singapore, Hamada and Lee attended a trilateral meeting with their U.S. counterpart Lloyd Austin, agreeing to launch a system to enable the three countries' real-time sharing of information about North Korean missiles by the end of this year.