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Japan denies patrol plane flew low over S. Korean warship after radar lock targeted

In this May 14, 2017 file photo, a Maritime Self-Defense Force P-1 patrol plane flies over the city of Chofu in western Tokyo. (Mainichi/Yosei Kozano)
The South Korean destroyer that Japan claims aimed its fire-control radar at a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force P-1 patrol plane on Dec. 20, 2018. (Photo provided by the Ministry of Defense)

TOKYO -- Japan's Defense Ministry on Dec. 25 denied a South Korean allegation that a Japanese Self-Defense Force plane flew low over a South Korean destroyer when the vessel's fire-control radar was directed at the aircraft, making a fresh rebuttal in a continuing row over the radar incident.

The Defense Ministry said in a written statement that the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) P-1 patrol plane was flying at a certain altitude and distance from the destroyer, and it is not a fact that the aircraft flew low above the South Korean ship.

The statement was a response to a Dec. 24 claim by the South Korean Ministry of Defense that the P-1 aircraft did fly over the ship at a low altitude.

The current row amid the deteriorating bilateral relationship began after the Japanese side announced on Dec. 21 that the patrol airplane was targeted by the South Korean ship's fire-control radar, equipment usually used to gauge the distance to and direction of a target shortly before attacks. Tokyo has lodged strong complaints with Seoul, and sent a senior Foreign Ministry official to the South Korean capital to discuss the issue.

The South Korean side has maintained that its vessel never directed a radar with any intention of tracking the plane. They also stated that the ship did not respond to radio inquiries from the Japanese plane asking for reasons of the radar use because the radio signals were too weak.

But the Japanese Defense Ministry said in its Dec. 25 statement that the crew of the aircraft used three frequencies, including international VHF and emergency frequencies, for a total of three inquiries in a bid to get a response from the South Korean ship.

(Japanese original by Kuniaki Kinoshita, Political News Department)

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