Japan’s defense minister reportedly said on Friday that a Japanese destroyer joining a multinational maritime drill in South Korean waters later this month will use the controversial "Rising Sun" flag during the exercise.
Japan’s Kyodo News said defense minister Yasukazu Hamada made the remark during a press conference.
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force(MSDF) is set to send its destroyer, the JS Hamagiri, to the "Eastern Endeavor 23" drill that will kick off in waters off Jeju next Wednesday, with the U.S., Japan and Australia joining host South Korea.
According to Kyodo, Hamada said that the destroyer will display the flag in line with domestic legislation mandating that MSDF vessels fly the flag as their official ensign.
The minister’s remarks come a day after Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun said that Seoul and Tokyo began discussing ways to have a destroyer from Japan’s maritime force bearing the flag of MSDF enter the Port of Busan later this month for the drill.
In response to the Yomiuri report, Seoul's defense ministry said on Thursday that there are slight differences between the flag of the Self-Defense Forces and the "Rising Sun" flag, which is regarded by South Koreans and other Asian countries as a symbol of Japan's wartime aggression and militarism in the first half of the 20th century.
The ministry’s spokesperson, Jeon Ha-kyu, also said the defense ministry will apply the same standard to all Proliferation Security Initiative(PSI) participants based on international practices and the principle of reciprocity.
The maritime exercise will be held on the occasion of a high-level meeting of the PSI to be held in Seoul for the first time ever in late May.