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S. Korean cadets to join military training in Japan: Defense Ministry

South Korean naval vessels carrying military cadets will travel to Japan later this month for a joint training, Seoul’s Defense Ministry said Sunday, despite an ongoing diplomatic row between Seoul and Japan over the latter’s use of a controversial military flag.

According to the Ministry of National Defense, three vessels carrying about 600 cadets from the Army, Navy and the Air Force will participate in the cruising exercise to be held in the Japanese port city of Sasebo from Oct. 28 to Nov. 18.

The announcement followed South Korea’s objection to the entry of Japanese warships carrying the Rising Sun Flag into its territory. Faced with criticism in South Korea that the flag represents Japan’s repressive colonial rule, the Japanese military withdrew from the naval festival to be held in Jeju from Oct. 10-14.

“While the Japanese military will not attend the naval fleet review, the two countries will maintain cooperation on military issues. Therefore, our position on the ships’ entry into Sasebo will not change,” a military official was quoted as saying by Yonhap News agency.  

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pays tribute to Rising Sun Flag. Yonhap
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pays tribute to Rising Sun Flag. Yonhap

According to defense officials here, the military had considered dispatching a Dokdo ship for the joint drill before they canceled the plan due to another training schedule. Controlled by South Korea but claimed by Japan, Dokdo Islet is another source of contention between the two countries.

South Korea and Japan have engaged in a diplomatic scuffle since the South Korean Navy requested last week that all vessels participating in the Jeju fleet festival refrain from using their own military flags -- such as the Japanese Rising Sun Flag -- to express their nationality.

Instead, the Navy asked the participating ships to raise their own national flag and South Korea’s national flag, the Taegeukgi. The Navy’s spokesperson claimed that raising the national flags was a “principle” established by international customs.

The Japanese Defense Ministry, however, asserted that it has every right under domestic and international laws to raise whichever flag it sees fit as a way to distinguish warships from commercial vessels.