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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Jan. 5)

All News 09:10 January 05, 2019

Stop escalating tension
:Japan should apologize over radar row with Korea

It is regrettable that Japan continues to ramp up tension with South Korea over a recent military radar spat. Worse, Tokyo is apparently trying to use the row for political gain at home and abroad.

Now we have to question the real intention of the Shinzo Abe government in stepping up its efforts to blame Seoul for a South Korean warship allegedly targeting a Japanese patrol aircraft with fire-control radar on Dec. 20.

We are dismayed at Japan's unreasonable and reckless accusation against Korea over the radar dispute. Despite Seoul's denial, Japan keeps claiming the 3,200-ton destroyer Gwanggaeto the Great locked its fire-control radar on Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force's P-1 patrol plane.

Japan, in a desperate bid to prove its claim, has even released a 13-minute video illustrating the operation of its plane. It also released the footage with English subtitles on YouTube to publicize its arguments in the international community.

However, the video clip presented no evidence proving Tokyo's claim. On the contrary, it shows the Japanese aircraft flying too low ― only about 150 meters above the Korean destroyer. This means the plane posed a threat to the warship, which was on a humanitarian to rescue a North Korean fishing boat drifting in East Sea international waters.

With Tokyo continuing to blame Seoul, the Ministry of National Defense expressed "deep concerns and regrets" Thursday. The ministry also demanded Japan apologize for the "threatening" low-altitude flight.

The Seoul government should have called for Japan's apology from the start. However, it made the call belatedly after realizing Tokyo has begun an international publicity campaign against Seoul by posting the video footage.

The Moon Jae-in administration must play hardball to refute Japan's groundless claim. It also needs to go all-out to solve the problem diplomatically through dialogue, although Japan has already poured cold water on this.

Most of all, Tokyo's irresponsible attempt to raise tension with Seoul appears to reflect the former colonial power's tilting toward the right. The nationalist Abe government is apparently trying to revive the past "glory" of imperialism and militarism.

Prime Minister Abe may want to take advantage of the radar controversy to increase defense spending in a race for a military build-up against China. He may also push for a constitutional revision to make Japan a "normal state" that can wage war against other countries.

But Abe and his government should realize that raising tensions with South Korea will do more harm than good. We therefore urge Japan side to stop blaming Seoul and solve the issue through dialogue.

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