Japan considers whether to participate in S Korea fleet review

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Japan should refrain from flying the "Rising Sun" flag on a warship in a fleet review planned in South Korea next week, a North Korean propaganda website said on Friday, joining South Koreans in the latest spat over the countries' colonial history.

Japan has decided not to participate in a major naval event held in South Korea's Jeju Island.

Japan has announced it won't send a warship to an global fleet review hosted by South Korea next week after Seoul requested the removal of the Japanese navy's "rising sun" flag.

"Japan wasn't able to accept the fleet review principles notified by our navy and we couldn't accept Japan's position", it said in a statement.

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But Japan has balked at the demand, with then-Defense 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 event next week is not a military exercise, but a fleet review, essentially a seagoing parade meant to demonstrate worldwide unity.

But, Japanese officials stated that the flag - whose design portrays a red sun with 16 rays - is mandatory for Japan's naval ships under domestic laws, adding that the flag is recognized as identification for the Japanese military under an global maritime convention. All participants will be flying their national flags.

South Korea strongly opposed this, citing public sentiment here. Some experts say it would be hard to equate the kyokujitsuki with Nazi symbols such as the swastika, as many South Koreans do, because the Japanese usage of the rising-sun symbol long predates World War II.

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"Hoisting of the Maritime Self-Defence Force ensign is required by law", Katsutoshi Kawano, the chief of staff of the Self Defence Forces, told reporters on Thursday. The rocks are occupied by South Korea but are also claimed by Japan, which calls them Takeshima.

Japan is a key player in United States-led efforts to isolate and punish North Korea over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Japan's government maintains there should be no issues with using that flag.

Announcing Japan's decision not to participate in the fleet review, Iwaya said that defense cooperation between Tokyo and Seoul remains extremely important.

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