South Korea says a Japanese military aircraft made a threatening low-altitude flight over one of its naval vessels Wednesday, describing it as a "provocative act."
General Suh Wook, the chief director of operations for South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Seoul the Japanese patrol plane flew over a destroyer at an altitude of 60-70 meters in international waters off the southern South Korean island of Jeju.
General Suh said this was the third such incident this month involving a Japanese military aircraft flying near a South Korean warship. He warned that South Korea will respond accordingly based on the military's rules of conduct.
South Korea's Defense Ministry summoned a Japanese defense attache from its embassy in Seoul to lodge a formal protest.
Wednesday's incident is the latest chapter in a heated military dispute between two Asian neighbors since last month, when Tokyo claimed a South Korean destroyer locked its targeting radar on a Japanese surveillance plane in the Sea of Japan. Seoul accused the Japanese plane of flying too close to the destroyer, which was engaged in a rescue operation.
In Tokyo, Japanese Defense Minster Takeshi Iwaya denied South Korea's allegation, while Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said it was essential the two sides maintain open communication.
Japan's brutal colonial occupation of the Korean peninsula between 1910-45 has left a bitter legacy among South Koreans, with hundreds of thousands subjected to numerous atrocities, including the so-called "comfort women" who were forced into sexual slavery in Japanese military brothels.
Tokyo is angered over recent decisions by South Korean courts ordering Japanese companies to compensate victims of Japan's forced labor policy, which Japan says was covered by the 1965 treaty that formally normalized bilateral ties between the two.