By Oh Hyun-woo and Yoon Sojung
The National Security Council on Feb. 1 warned of “legitimate and necessary measures” against Japan if one of its patrol planes again threateningly flies at low altitude toward a Korean naval ship.
The council reached the decision in a meeting chaired by National Security Director Chung Eui-yong.
The bilateral row over the flybys erupted on Dec. 20 last year, when Japan claimed that the Korean destroyer Gwanggaeto the Great locked its radar on a Japanese patrol aircraft in an overlapping exclusive economic zone in the East Sea. The vessel at the time was in the process of rescuing a drifting North Korean fishing boat.
Military authorities of Seoul and Tokyo held a video conference on Dec. 27 to get to the bottom of the incident. The next day, however, the row worsened after the Japanese Defense Ministry released video footage of the Korean warship that Tokyo claimed was clear evidence that Seoul was in the wrong.
The Korean Ministry of National Defense hit back by saying the video footage was not objective because it contained limited scenes, demanding more conclusive proof. The ministry also released a video on its official YouTube channel to further refute the Japanese claim.
The Japanese military released on Jan. 21 two audio files of radar for fire control and a search on its homepage to reiterate its claim that the Korean warship locked its radar on the Japanese aircraft.
The next day, Seoul announced its official stance on the issue by saying, “The gist of the row lies with the low-altitude flight of the Japanese patrol plane in a threatening manner toward the Korean warship, which was performing a humanitarian rescue mission.” The Korean Defense Ministry also demanded an apology from Japan and measures to prevent a recurrence of the incident.
The Japanese military apparently ignored the warning, however, as another Japanese patrol plane on Jan. 23 flew at a low altitude of 60 meters toward the Korean destroyer Dae Jo Yeong in a threatening manner.
The Korean Defense Ministry summoned two Japanese diplomats that day and demanded that their government prevent a recurrence, warning of a strong response in the event of another similar incident.