Tokyo likely to halt dispatch of MSDF destroyer to South Korea


The Defense Ministry will likely scuttle the planned dispatch of a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer to South Korea in spring as bilateral relations have further soured over a string of recent rows, a ministry source said.

The move follows the continuing squabble over the MSDF claim that a South Korean destroyer locked its fire-control radar on an MSDF patrol aircraft as it was flying off the Noto Peninsula in the Sea of Japan in December.

Japan strongly protested the act, which South Korea denies doing, and the two countries have been denouncing each other over the incident. South Korea has since criticized another Japanese patrol aircraft for flying dangerously close to one of its naval vessels in the East China Sea on Jan. 23.

Japan planned to deploy the Izumo, which carries helicopters, to Busan to participate in a joint maritime drill by ASEAN plus eight countries, including Japan, South Korea, China, the United States and Russia.

The exercise will coincide with a working-level meeting of defense ministers of ASEAN members and the eight nations, which is known as ADMM-Plus, in South Korea in spring.

When an ADMM-Plus meeting was held in Singapore in October, Japan dispatched the MSDF destroyer Kaga there.

Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya signaled on Jan. 26 that the ministry will reconsider the planned dispatch of the Izumo.

“We will contemplate a proper way for the MSDF to join the exercise,” he told reporters while visiting Beppu, Oita Prefecture.

A senior ministry official suggested that Tokyo should have reduced contact with Seoul at present.