TOKYO (AP) — Japan announced Tuesday that it is not inviting South Korea to a multinational naval review it is hosting next month because their ties are badly strained over history, trade and defense.
The Maritime Self-Defense Force, Japan's navy, said Tuesday it will not invite the South Korean navy for the review, scheduled for Oct. 14 at Sagami Bay, west of Tokyo.
The head of the maritime force, Adm. Hiroshi Yamamura, said the decision was made because “We don’t have an adequate environment to invite South Korea, considering the severe condition of current Japan-South Korea relations.”
In Seoul earlier Tuesday, South Korean Defense Ministry spokeswoman Choi Hyun-soo told a briefing that South Korea did not receive an invitation and that it’s up to the hosts to decide the participants.
Tensions between the Asian neighbors have escalated since July, when Japan tightened controls on exports to South Korea.
The two countries have had long-running disputes over Japan's actions during its 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula, including sexual abuse of Korean women at military brothels and the use of forced laborers.
Japan says all compensation issues were settled under a 1965 peace treaty with South Korea and has accused Seoul of violating international law by not stopping a Supreme Court decision ordering Japanese companies to compensate former Korean forced laborers.
Japan tightened controls on exports of key chemicals that South Korean companies use to produce semiconductors and displays, and then downgraded South Korea's preferential trade status a month later. Tokyo cited unspecified security reasons, while Seoul accused it of "weaponizing" trade in response to the dispute over Japan's wartime actions.
The trade restrictions, which affect a core South Korean industry, have led to a full-blown dispute, sending relations between the U.S. allies to their lowest level in decades and spilling over into tourism, security and other areas.
Seoul announced last month it is terminating a military intelligence sharing pact with Japan that had symbolized the countries' three-way security cooperation with the United States in the face of North Korean nuclear threats and China's growing assertiveness in the region.
Defense officials said seven countries — the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia, India, Singapore and China — have been invited to the upcoming naval review.
Last year, Japan skipped an international navy review hosted by South Korea after Seoul asked Japan’s navy not to hoist its “kyokujitsuki” flag, a reminder of Japanese wartime aggression to many South Koreans.
Many South Koreans associate the symbol with Japanese military aggression during World War II and have expressed anger over the potential display of the alleged "war-crime flag."
Associated Press writer Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.