A Japanese destroyer flying the controversial “Rising Sun” flag entered the port of Busan on Monday to attend a multinational maritime drill to be held in international waters near Jeju Island this week.
The JS Hamagiri sent by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force(MSDF) arrived at the Busan naval base at around 9:30 a.m. Monday, two days before the Eastern Endeavor 23 maritime interdiction exercise kicks off.
The Japanese warship was carrying the rising sun flag, the official ensign of the MSDF, as announced earlier by Japanese defense minister Yasukazu Hamada, who sought to justify the use of the flag citing domestic laws.
The Japanese military flag is regarded by South Koreans and Asian countries as a symbol of Japan's wartime aggression and militarism in the first half of the 20th century.
The Moon Jae-in administration urged Japanese warships to refrain from flying the controversial flag during an international fleet review hosted by the South Korean navy in 2018, but Japan refused to take part in protest.
Seoul’s defense ministry spokesperson Jeon Ha-kyu earlier indicated that the Yoon Suk Yeol administration will not take issue with it, saying flying official ensigns by warships is a universal practice.
Meanwhile, Eastern Endeavor 23 will be held on the occasion of a high-level meeting of the Proliferation Security Initiative(PSI) to be held for the first time in South Korea from Tuesday.
A total of seven ships and six aircraft from South Korea, the U.S., Japan and Australia will take part in the multinational drill.