Japan announced Tuesday it has cancelled a port call in South Korea by its main warship during a multilateral naval exercise as relations between the two Asian neighbours fall to their lowest level in recent years. The Defense Ministry said it will not send the helicopter carrier Izumo to Busan in southern South Korea in April.
The ministry said it plans to participate in the rest of the exercise and hopes that bilateral ties will improve. The exercise also involves Southeast Asian nations and will be held in waters between South Korea and Singapore.
Japan and South Korea, both key allies of the United States and close economic partners, are locked in disputes involving alleged military provocations as well as wartime history. Japan also cancelled a warship dispatch to an international fleet review hosted by South Korea in October after Seoul asked Tokyo to remove the Japanese Navy's "rising sun" flag that many South Koreans consider a symbol of Japan's wartime aggression.
Japan in December alleged that a South Korean destroyer locked its fire-control radar on a Japanese warplane. South Korea's military denied the accusation and said the Japanese plane flew low over the warship, which was rescuing a distressed North Korean boat. The two countries also dispute compensation for the Japanese military's abuse of "comfort women" and Korean forced labourers during Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
(With inputs from agencies.)