Japan says footage ‘proves’ South Korean warship had weapons lock on one of its aeroplanes
- Seoul has denied the allegations, saying the ship was merely searching for a North Korean fishing boat that was drifting near the inter-Korean sea border
A row between Seoul and Tokyo escalated on Friday after Japan released a video it said backed up its claim that a South Korean warship had locked a weapons targeting system onto a Japanese plane.
South Korea condemned the release of the footage and reiterated its rejection of the Japanese allegations.
Tensions have flared since Japan claimed a South Korean destroyer last week aimed its fire-control radar at a Japanese maritime patrol plane in the sea off the eastern coast of South Korea.
Seoul has denied the allegations, saying the ship was merely searching for a North Korean fishing boat that was drifting near the inter-Korean sea border.
In a bid to defuse tensions, defence authorities from both sides held a video conference on Thursday and “exchanged opinions regarding the truth and technical analysis to remove misunderstandings”, the South Korean defence ministry said.
But the Japanese defence ministry on Friday released on its homepage a 13-minute video filmed by the aircraft that it said supported its allegations.
Tokyo said the footage contained scenes where the plane was hit multiple times by the fire-control radar.
“We express deep concern and regret” over the unilateral release of the footage, the South Korean defence ministry said in a statement on Friday.
“As we have stated repeatedly, the Gwanggaeto destroyer was engaging in a normal rescue operation and it remains as a fact that the ship did not use” the fire-control radar, it said.
“Instead, it is very disappointing that the Japanese patrol aircraft conducted a low-altitude flight in a threatening manner against our ship which was involved in a humanitarian rescue mission,” it said.
South Korea dismissed the footage as evidence, saying it only shows scenes of the ship from the circling plane.
The row has further complicated already tense relations between the neighbours who are tangled in disputes over Tokyo’s claim to a remote island controlled by Seoul and Japan’s denial of legal responsibility for wartime atrocities.
Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters earlier on Friday that he decided to release the footage to let the people in and outside Japan know that the Japanese Self-Defense Force operated appropriately.
“It is most important that an incident like this should never be repeated between Japan and South Korea,” Iwaya said, adding that relations between the two sides are crucial for regional national security. “Even though difficult issues remain between Japan and South Korea,” he said, “I hope to overcome those problems and push forward our mutual understanding and exchange between our two militaries.”
Additional reporting by Associated Press