S. Korea, Japan hold first senior-level defense talks in 6 yrs amid N.K. threats

SEOUL-- South Korea and Japan held bilateral vice-ministerial defense talks in Seoul on Wednesday for the first time in six years, as they seek to enhance security cooperation against North Korea's evolving military threats.

Seoul's Vice Defense Minister Shin Beom-chul and Tokyo's Vice Defense Minister for International Affairs Masami Oka met on the margins of the annual three-day Seoul Defense Dialogue (SDD) that kicked off the previous day.

Such defense talks have not been held since 2016, as Seoul and Tokyo have long been mired in a set of historical and territorial feuds stemming from Japan's 1910-45 colonization of the Korean Peninsula.

"The meeting was held based on the two sides' shared understanding on the need for the normalization of defense cooperation between South Korea and Japan," Shin said after the meeting.

"The two sides especially shared the view on the importance of trilateral security cooperation among the South, the U.S. and Japan to deter and respond to the North's nuclear and missile threats, and agreed to continue related cooperation," he added.

Shin also said that the meeting touched on the two countries' unresolved dispute over Japan's maritime patrol aircraft having conducted an unusually low-altitude flyby over a South Korean warship in December 2018.

The dispute has remained unsettled as Seoul has taken issue with what it decried as a menacing flyby, while Tokyo accused the vessel of having locked its fire-control radar on the plane.

"The two sides reached an understanding on the need to address (that issue) for the development of cooperation between the two countries' defense ministries," Shin said. "On this matter, we agreed to have additional working-level discussions."

Another topic at the meeting was Tokyo's invitation for the South Korean Navy to attend Japan's fleet review set to be held in November to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the country's Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF).

"Our side delivered our position that we are internally looking into it at this point," Shin said.

The planned fleet review has been a source of controversy here as it features the hoisting of the Rising Sun Flag on Japanese vessels. The flag is viewed in Korea as a symbol of Japan's imperialist past.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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