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(LEAD) S. Korean, Japanese defense ministers hold first one-on-one talks since radar row

All News 17:05 June 01, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS comments, more details, background in paras 2, 5-10, photo, byline)
By Oh Seok-min

SINGAPORE, June 1 (Yonhap) -- The defense ministers of South Korea and Japan held one-on-one talks Saturday in Singapore for the first time since military relations between the two countries soured over a radar row in December.

The closed-door meeting between South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and his Japanese counterpart, Takeshi Iwaya, lasted about 40 minutes on the sidelines of the Asia Security Summit, also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.

Defense ties between Seoul and Tokyo have been strained since December when Japan claimed that a South Korean warship directed military tracking radar at its maritime patrol aircraft. South Korea has rejected the claim, saying the airplane needlessly approached the ship which was on a normal rescue mission.

Bilateral talks between the defense chiefs of the two countries were last held in October 2018.

South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo (L) shakes hands with Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya in Singapore on June 1, 2019. (Yonhap)

During the meeting, Jeong told Iwaya that the alleged "directing of the radar is groundless, and the feud was essentially caused by the low-altitude, intimidating flight of the Japanese aircraft," the Seoul ministry said in a release.

He then called on Japan to abide by international law and "the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea," a 2014 agreement signed by 22 countries, including South Korea, Japan, the U.S., China, and Russia, aimed at reducing the chances of an incident at sea.

"The two ministers shared the importance of the swift resolution of pending issues to strengthen stable security circumstances in Northeast Asia, and agreed to push for working-level talks," the ministry said, vowing their commitment to defense cooperation over the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the establishment of a peace regime.

"We candidly exchanged our opinions on the flight of the Japanese aircraft (in December), and agreed to cooperate closely to develop our relations to prevent any recurrence of such incident," Jeong told reporters while leaving the venue.

Noting that the two sides need to work closely "on every single issue that takes place in the international community as close neighbors," the minister pledged to work for the improvement of bilateral ties.

On Sunday, the two ministers will hold a trilateral meeting along with acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan.


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