SEOUL, Aug. 21 (Yonhap) — South Korea is considering accepting Japan’s invitation to a celebration of its navy this fall, a military source said Sunday, a move that could help improve frayed relations between the countries.
According to the source, Japan issued an invitation to South Korea in January for an international fleet review scheduled for November. The fleet review will commemorate the 70th founding anniversary of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force.
With President Yoon Suk-yeol keen on improving ties with Japan, South Korea may decide to attend the Japanese fleet review — which brings together the country’s naval vessels and troops — for the first time since 2015.
The source said Japan has also proposed holding a joint humanitarian naval rescue exercise with South Korea. The most recent exercise of its kind for the two countries took place in 2017.
South Korea has shunned Japanese fleet reviews in recent years amid chilled ties and the public sentiment against the display of the imperial-era Rising Sun Flag.
Many Koreans view the Rising Sun Flag, formerly used by the Japanese Imperial Army, as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism. The Maritime Self-Defense Force also flies the flag during its fleet reviews.
The military source said no decision has been reached on South Korea’s participation in this year’s fleet review, but the display of the flag shouldn’t be the reason to turn down the invitation.
“The Maritime Self-Defense Force’s flag is internationally recognized, and it has been used during international exercises involving both of our navies,” the source said, citing the U.S.-led Rim of the Pacific Exercise this summer as an example. “It is not reasonable to sit out the fleet review on the account of that flag.”