See More on Facebook

Analysis, Diplomacy

Will US wade into Seoul-Tokyo military dispute?

Washington has so far kept out the spat between its two closest allies in the Asia Pacific region.


Written by

Updated: January 31, 2019

As the Seoul-Tokyo spat over Japanese warplanes’ flights over South Korean Navy ships continues, eyes have turned to the possible intervention of the US in the escalating dispute between its two core allies in Asia.

While the US has been maintaining its silence on the issue, Harry Harris, the US ambassador to Korea, made an unannounced visit to the Ministry of National Defense to speak with Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo on Monday.

The Defense Ministry said the ambassador’s visit was previously planned as a New Year’s greeting, but added it could not reveal what was said, as it was a closed-door meeting.

Still, speculation is high that the two leaders might have discussed pending issues, including the military dispute between Seoul and Tokyo, during the talk that lasted about 1 hour and 20 minutes. They may also have talked about negotiations over Seoul’s sharing of the costs of stationing US troops in Korea.

The US ambassador also held a 15-minute meeting with Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha later Monday.

Lt. Gen. Jerry Martinez, commander of the US Forces Japan, also reportedly met with Japanese Defense Minister Iwaya Takeshi on Tuesday afternoon for a courtesy visit. He was expected to speak about pending issues.

During a press conference earlier in the day, the Japanese minister had urged Korea to accept that its warplanes are flying according to international air regulations, according to a Japanese news report.

Takeshi also said he will seek “dialogue” with Korea to build trust, and hinted at his willingness to hold a high-level meeting.

Over a month has passed since the military spat began, when Tokyo accused Seoul’s naval warship of locking its weapons-targeting radar onto its warplane. Rejecting the allegation, Seoul fired back and criticized Tokyo for flying its maritime patrol aircraft too closely to the South Korean warship.

The two sides held a general-level meeting, but the dispute has continued with no signs of abating. Although the Japanese government has appeared to discuss the issue with Washington on several occasions, the US has not delivered its stance.

The Defense Ministry here said it was exchanging data over the issue with the US, but added that the warplane dispute is a matter to be discussed with Japan.

On Tuesday, the ministry also reiterated the need for Japan to provide “objective” and “scientific” evidence to resolve the issue and that the door for dialogue is always open.

Meanwhile, Seoul’s Foreign Ministry officials in charge of US affairs will depart for Japan on Wednesday for a two-day trip to UN-flagged military bases there, the ministry said Tuesday.

A similar conflict occurred between Japan and China in 2013, with Tokyo claiming a Chinese convoy aimed its fire radar at its naval vessel in the East China Sea. Tokyo said it had photographs and video clips as clear proof, but did not release them to the public at the time.

Denying the accusation, China likewise criticized Japan for flying its reconnaissance plane at low altitudes too closely to its warships. The dispute only ended after the US stepped in and criticized Beijing, calling its actions “provocations that can become a threat.”

“The US has its own priorities, with the (summit on) denuclearization with North Korea coming up, and I believe the Korea-Japan dispute did not appear to be so serious to (US leaders) at first,” said Moon Keun-sik, a retired Navy captain currently leading the Korea Defense Forum.

“The US must be well-informed of situations here. But as the dispute appears to continue and sour relations, I think the US has decided to step in before it gets worse.”

Putting aside that the US President Donald Trump administration is different from his predecessor, both countries are allies to the US and it must have been more difficult for it to jump in for a resolution, Moon added.

Korean lawmakers on Wednesday also raised their voices, labeling Japan’s actions “provocative.” Led by Rep. Ahn Gyu-back from the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, who chairs the parliamentary defense committee, 34 lawmakers across the aisle issued a resolution demanding the neighboring country apologize and promise to prevent similar incidents in the future.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


The Korea Herald
About the Author: The Korea Herald is the nation’s largest English-language daily and the country’s sole member of the Asia News Network.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Analysis, Diplomacy

‘History will take note of those who ridiculed removal of Article 370’: PM Modi in Maharashtra

PM Modi also expressed confidence that the BJP will break all victory records in the October 21 Maharashtra Assembly elections. Prime Minister on Thursday once again lashed out at the opposition saying that history will take note of those who mocked the abrogation of Article 370, that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir. “Whenever Article 370 will be discussed in history, — the decision that was taken in the interest of the country — the people who opposed and ridiculed will be remembered,” PM Modi said while addressing a poll rally in Maharashtra’s Parli. He said the next week’s state Assembly elections were a battle between BJP’s “karyashakti” (power of development) and opposition’s “swarth shakti” (selfishness). Further targeting the Congress and NCP leaders, he wondered if “frustrated and dejected” people could do anything good for people. “A Congress


By The Statesman
October 18, 2019

Analysis, Diplomacy

Malaysia’s PM Mahathir says rail line RTS linking Johor Baru to Singapore to proceed

The rail line has been on again and off again. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Thursday (Oct 17) said Malaysia will proceed with the 4km Johor Baru to Singapore rail line. His comments about the Rapid Transit System (RTS) rail link followed that of Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke on Tuesday that details of the project will be decided by the Malaysian Cabinet within two weeks. Tun Dr Mahathir said when asked by reporters on Thursday: “We will proceed with the RTS but we will take some time.” Asked if this meant the Malaysian government had resolved 


By The Straits Times
October 18, 2019

Analysis, Diplomacy

S. Korean, ASEAN officials look ahead to special summit and stronger regional ties

Korea has increasingly look to Southeast Asia as an export destination and regional partners. Ahead of the highly anticipated summit in Busan next month between the leaders of South Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, top officials from participating countries gathered in the southern port city Wednesday and voiced high expectations for the future of the relationship between South Korea and the ASEAN nations. South Korean Ambassador to ASEAN Lim Sung-nam, ASEAN-Korea Center Secretary-General Lee Hyuk, Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don and Myanmar Ambassador to South Korea U Thant Sin said they looked forward to the upcoming summit, calling it a steppingstone to stronger South Korea-ASEAN ties and to economic prosperity and peace on the Korean Peninsula. “In the past 30 years, the relationship between South Korea and ASEAN has grown to an astonishing degree. Trade volume rose 20-fold and human e


By The Korea Herald
October 18, 2019

Analysis, Diplomacy

We will never abandon people of occupied Kashmir, says Army chief during LoC visit

The army chief said that the Pakistan army will fulfil its role no matter the cost. Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa while visiting troops stationed along the Line of Control (LoC) on Wednesday vowed “to never leave Kashmiris alone” in their fight against Indian oppression. “Kashmiris in IOJ&K are bravely facing Indian atrocities under continued siege. We shall never leave them alone and play our rightful role at whatever cost”, said Gen Bajwa. Gen Bajwa’s remarks followed a briefing of the “deliberate targeting of civilians” by Indian troops and the response by Pakistan’s armed forces. A day earlier, at least three civilians died and eight others were injured in Azad Jammu and Kashmir after Indian troops resorted to “indiscri


By Dawn
October 17, 2019

Analysis, Diplomacy

Singapore’s 4G leadership lays out plans to take relationship with China ‘to a higher level’

The two countries share a close relationship. Singapore’s fourth-generation leadership has a comprehensive plan for engaging with China economically and plugging into the East Asian giant’s rapid development. Ten members of the “4G” cohort drove home this point as they spoke with Singapore media at the end of a bilateral meeting in Chongqing on Tuesday (Oct 15) that was of particular significance, as the Singapore team was composed fully of this new generation of political leaders. Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat led the Singapore delegation as he co-chaired the 15th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation, the highest-level bilateral platform between Singapore and China. Mr Heng, who took over the reins from former DPM Teo Chee Hean earlier this year, said his first meeting in the new role was forward-looking and productive, and that he took the opportunity to “


By The Straits Times
October 16, 2019

Analysis, Diplomacy

Prince William pays tribute to Pakistanis who lost their lives to terror

The future King has met the current Pakistan Prime Minister when he was a boy. Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, on Tuesday paid tribute to all those who “endured sacrifice and helped build Pakistan to the country it is today”. His remarks came during his first official speech delivered during a reception at the Pakistan National Monument in Islamabad hosted by the British High Commissioner to Pakistan Thomas Drew. “For a country so young, Pakistan has endured many hardships, with countless lives lost to terror and hatred. Tonight I want to pay tribute to all those who have endured such sacrifice and helped to build the country that we see today,” said William. He recognised that for “Pakistan’s great potential” to be realised, difficulties will have to be faced and sacrifices made. William also spoke of the “unique bonds” between


By Dawn
October 16, 2019