The chief of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces' Joint Staff reaffirmed on Thursday that Japan will raise its controversial Rising Sun flag at an global naval review in South Korea.
Japan participated in similar events in 1998 and 2008 with its ships flying the Rising Sun ensign or kyokujitsuki, employed by many units of the Japanese Self-Defense Force since the 1950s.
A South Korean Navy official said, "Japan was adamant that it can not accept not hoisting the rising sun flag", adding, "We are in the process of trying to reduce the diplomatic fallout". But next week's fleet review comes amid heightened anti-Japanese sentiment, partially fueled by bitterness over a 2015 agreement between the countries to settle a long-standing row over Korean women forced into wartime sexual slavery.
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.
Jeju Island will stage the International Fleet Review from October tenth to 14th.
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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 worldwide maritime convention.
North Korea on Friday joined South Korea in demanding that Japan not fly the flag, which both see as a symbol of the country's past military aggression.
South Korea's navy on Thursday denied a local report that it was considering having President Moon Jae-in board a South Korean warship named after the disputed eastern islets of Dokdo during the fleet review in hopes of nudging Japan to voluntarily withdraw from the event.
The "Rising Sun" ensign, used by the Japanese Imperial Navy in campaigns around Asia and the Pacific before and during World War Two, was adopted by the Maritime Self-Defense Force in 1954.
Japan is a key player in United States-led efforts to isolate and punish North Korea over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. However, public broadcaster NHK said Tokyo had already told Seoul it was unlikely to do so.