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S. Korea uninvited to Japanese naval event amid frayed ties

This file photo shows the national flags of Japan and South Korea. (Kyodo)

TOKYO/SEOUL (Kyodo) -- Japan said Tuesday it will not invite South Korea to take part in an international naval review scheduled for next month, given sharp deterioration in bilateral ties.

"We believe (the two sides) have yet to create an environment that is sufficient to invite South Korea," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference, in reference to simmering disputes between the two neighbors over trade policy and wartime history.

The top government spokesman made the comment hours after the South Korean Ministry of National Defense's press secretary said Seoul has not received a letter of invitation to the Oct. 14 event, organized by Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force in Sagami Bay, southwest of Tokyo.

Suga, however, said Japan regards security cooperation with South Korea, as well as trilateral coordination with the United States, as vital in deterring regional security threats such as short-range ballistic missile launches by North Korea in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Seven countries -- Australia, Britain, Canada, China, India, Singapore and the United States -- are scheduled to join the naval review, according to the MSDF. China will participate for the first time in the event that is generally held every three years.

Defense cooperation between Japan and South Korea has become even more difficult since Seoul decided in August to withdraw from a military intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo, known as GSOMIA.

It followed the alleged lock-on of fire-control radar to a Japanese Self-Defense Forces patrol plane by the South Korean navy last year, precipitating a rise in tensions.

Last October, Japan canceled its participation in a naval review in South Korea after Seoul requested Tokyo refrain from flying the rising sun flag, which was used during World War II. Seoul has criticized the flag as a symbol of Japan's wartime aggression.

In contrast, Japan dispatched a destroyer to China in April for a naval review commemorating the 70th anniversary of its navy's founding.

It marked the first visit to the country by a Japanese warship since December 2011 and signaled an improvement in bilateral relations.

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