Japan releases audio recordings in radar lock-on dispute with South Korea

After first releasing video footage of an incident in which a South Korean destroyer allegedly trained its fire-control radar on a Japanese patrol plane in December 2018, Japan’s defense ministry has now released an audio file with the aim of proving its allegations.

In a statement on January 21, the defense ministry said it was releasing data of the radar waves converted to sound as further evidence of the irradiation of the fire-control radar.

“The Ministry of Defense (MOD) has made endeavors in the past for close communication to take place between the defense authorities of Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK), and in this spirit, regarding the current issue concerning the fire-control radar irradiation by an ROK destroyer, a series of consultations have been held between Japan and the ROK. However, it is extremely regrettable that even today, the difference between the respective understandings regarding major issues, including whether or not there was an irradiation of fire-control radar, is not yet resolved,” the ministry said.

“We hope that this announcement will lead to the prevention of similar incidents in the future, and we will continue to make sincere efforts toward continuous Japan-ROK and Japan-ROK-US defense cooperation.”

The dispute between the two countries started on December 20 when a Maritime Self Defence Force P-1 patrol aircraft, flying within Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Sea of Japan, was irradiated by a fire-control radar from the ROK destroyer.

South Korea said the destroyer did not direct its radar at the JMSDF plane adding that the vessel was in the process of rendering assistance to a North Korean ship drifting at sea.

Responding to South Korean claims, Japan said that a fire-control radar is designed to be used to measure the precise orientation of and distance to an attack target, and that it is not suitable for searching over a wide range. A surface search radar is more appropriate for the purpose of searching for missing ships, the ministry added.

“Upon careful and meticulous analysis by the MOD’s specialized unit of the frequency, intensity, waveform, etc. of the radar waves directed at the MSDF P-1, the MOD has confirmed that the P-1 was continuously irradiated for a certain period, multiple times by the fire-control radar (STIR-180) of the ROK destroyer that was being photographed. The STIR-180 was not mounted on the patrol and rescue vessel that was nearby at the time, and the fact the ROK destroyer directed its radar is clear from the footage released by the MOD on December 28, 2018.”

In the same statement, the defense ministry said it was terminating talks with its South Korean counterpart related to the dispute.

Responding to Tokyo’s move, a South Korean defense ministry spokesperson said the audio released by Japan was just mechanical sounds from which the detection date, angle and traits of electromagnetic waves could not be verified. The spokesperson also expressed regret over Japan’s decision to stop consultations aimed at verifying the facts.

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