South Korea reiterated call for Japan to remove ‘rising sun’ flag

Vastavam web: South Korea on Thursday reiterated a demand that Japan should remove its “rising sun” naval flag from a warship participating in an international fleet review at Jeju island next week. Many South Koreans associate the symbol with Japanese military aggression during World War II and have expressed anger over the potential display of the alleged “war-crime flag” during the October 10-14 event.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on Thursday said Japan should be more considerate about how South Koreans remember its brutal colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula before the end of the war. The Foreign Ministry also conveyed Seoul’s position to Tokyo through diplomatic channels.

But Japan has balked at the demand, with Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera saying last week that the ship’s display of the red-and-white flag would be mandatory under Japan’s laws. The flag, portraying a red disc with 16 rays extending outward, has been used as the ensign of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force since its launching in 1954.

When asked whether South Korea could raise the issue of Japan’s usage of the flag with the United Nations, Kang said her ministry will review the “possible and appropriate options” before deciding whether to take stronger international action. South Korean Defence Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo acknowledged to lawmakers on Monday that there’s not much the country can do under “international custom” if Japan insists on displaying the rising-sun flag on the vessel coming to Jeju.

Japanese naval vessels flew rising-sun flags during fleet reviews in South Korea in 1998 and 2008. But next week’s fleet review comes amid heightened anti-Japanese sentiment, partially fuelled by bitterness over a 2015 agreement between the countries to settle a long-standing row over Korean women forced into wartime sexual slavery. Some South Koreans also see Japan’s conservative government as failing to sufficiently support South Korea’s diplomatic push to improve relations with North Korea following a period of animosity over the North’s nuclear and missile tests. A ruling party lawmaker has even proposed a bill banning the symbol on ships and aircraft entering South Korea and also at concerts and sports events. Internet users have filed more than 150 online petitions to the office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, asking him to stop the Japanese destroyer from coming to the island.