Japan has begun making arrangements to hold a meeting with South Korea's defense minister on the sidelines of an annual security forum slated to take place in Singapore for three days from late this month, a senior official said Thursday.
If realized, it will be Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya's first meeting with his South Korean counterpart Jeong Kyeong Doo in 2019.
Bilateral tensions have been running high since a South Korean destroyer allegedly locked its fire-control radar on a Japanese patrol plane in December, in addition to friction over long-standing wartime issues.
(Screenshot taken from a video that the South Korean Defense Ministry posted on YouTube on Jan. 4, 2019. The subtitle reads: A Japanese patrol aircraft (in circle) flew into the area at a low altitude as a humanitarian rescue operation was under way.)
During the envisaged meeting, Iwaya hopes to mainly discuss North Korea with Jeong and has no plans to focus on the radar incident, according to the official at the Japanese Defense Ministry.
"The meeting will be meaningless unless it is a positive and constructive one," a Japanese governmental source said.
In January, Japan concluded that South Korea's denial of the alleged radar lock is "baseless" and has cut off talks on the incident since then.
(Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya (L) and his South Korean counterpart Jeong Kyeong Doo hold talks in Singapore in 2018. )
During the three-day Asia Security Summit starting from May 31, Japan is also considering holding a trilateral meeting joined by acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, the official said.
Known also as the Shangri-La Dialogue, the forum has taken place every year in Singapore since 2002, where ministers of Asia-Pacific countries and other major nations such as Britain, France and Germany debate security challenges in the region and their defense cooperation.