Japan likely to skip naval event after S.Korea protests over flag

Japan likely to skip naval event after S.Korea protests over flag”

Japan has chose to skip an worldwide naval event in South Korea next week amid a dispute over its plan to fly the Rising Sun flag, a Seoul government source said Friday.

The nation's Navy has been notified by Tokyo that it can not participate in the International Fleet Review, unless Seoul accepts the Rising Sun flag on Japan's warship, as it is required by domestic law to hoist the flag.

It's the same flag that the Imperial Japanese Navy used during World War Two, and that connection has sparked protests in some Asian countries - including China and South Korea.

But, Japanese officials stated that the flag - whose design portrays a red sun with 16 rays - is mandatory for Japan's naval ships under domestic laws, adding that the flag is recognized as identification for the Japanese military under an global maritime convention.

"We confirmed Japan's position that it will cancel sending a warship to the fleet review", said a Korean government official. All participants will be flying their national flags. Seoul employed diplomatic channels to ask Japan to "consider the public sentiment our people have over the Rising Sun flag". Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force adopted the rising sun flag since its launch in 1954.

South Korea's navy had earlier asked all participating 14 countries - including Japan - to display only their national flags and the South Korean flag on their vessels. Easily recognized flags for warships have always been considered both a proud tradition and a practical necessity on the high seas, although presumably no one involved in the fleet review next week would fail to recognize Japan's ships without it.

Japan's absence in the worldwide fleet review is "regrettable and the decision should not affect maintaining the promising ties between the two countries' Navies", they said.

Hundreds of protesters on Wednesday expressed anger over Japanese plans to bring the rising-sun flag to the fleet review during a weekly rally in Seoul denouncing sexual slavery by Japan's World War II military. The rocks are occupied by South Korea but are also claimed by Japan, which calls them Takeshima.

Korea was under Japan's brutal colonial rule from 1910-45.

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