Japan is considering whether it will participate in an global fleet review in South Korea next week, the top government spokesman said on Friday, amid demands for it to refrain from flying its "Rising Sun" flag on a warship.
South Korea had asked Japan's MSDF not to display the ensign.
But Japan's navy - officially known as the "Maritime Self-Defense Force" uses the "Rising Sun" flag with 16 streaks of red stretching out from that sun in the center. The South Koreans voiced particular objections to the kyokujitsuki, likening it to Nazi German's swastika as a symbol of evil from World War II and a memento of Japan's brutal occupation of the Korean peninsula. They say the flag is also widely recognized as identification for the Japanese military under an worldwide maritime convention.
The flag issue is the latest row between the countries.
The event next week is not a military exercise, but a fleet review, essentially a seagoing parade meant to demonstrate worldwide unity.
Japan's Sankei Shimbun reported Friday that the Japanese government decided not to send its Defense Forces warship to Jeju for the global fleet event after determining that there could be "no compromise" in the two countries' positions.
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.
Earlier this week, Japan's Defense Minister said the Rising Sun flag will be raised during the fleet review, in his words, "as a matter of course".
Thirteen foreign countries will participate in the fleet review.
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-Defence Force in 1954.
"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.
Japan was a key player in US -led efforts to isolate and punish North Korea over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. The rocks are occupied by South Korea but are also claimed by Japan, which calls them Takeshima.
Tokyo-based broadcaster NHK likewise reported that the Japanese government, in response to the Korean government's request not to hoist the rising sun flag, citing public sentiment, conveyed to the Korean side its position to "delay the deployment" of its warship.
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