A Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer will fly the rising sun flag when taking part in a naval drill in South Korea next week, Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said Friday, amid improving ties between the two Asian neighbors.

Tokyo's decision regarding the exercise, slated to be held off Jeju Island next Wednesday, indicates that Seoul views the act of hoisting the controversial flag, perceived as a symbol of Japan's wartime militarism, as less problematic. Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945.

A Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force ensign is flown on the deck of the destroyer Suzutsuki as it arrived at China's Qingdao port on April 21, 2019, to attend a fleet review being conducted by the Chinese navy on April 23 to mark the 70th anniversary of its foundation. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Hamada said at a press conference that the destroyer will display the flag when participating in the drill "in accordance with" the domestic legislation that mandates MSDF vessels to fly the rising sun flag as their official ensign.

In recent months, bilateral relations have been improving with South Korea President Yoon Suk Yeol, who took office in May 2022, pledging to resolve tensions with Japan after their ties sank to their lowest point in decades under his predecessor Moon Jae In.

In March, Yoon proposed a solution to a long-standing bilateral dispute over compensating wartime laborers. As a sign of a thaw in relations, Japan and South Korea have resumed reciprocal visits between their leaders, following their suspension in December 2011.

During Moon's time in office, the two Asian countries were at odds over the rising sun flag, with South Korea claiming it is associated with the World War II-era Imperial Japanese Army and Navy.

In 2018, Japan canceled its attendance at a naval event in South Korea after Seoul demanded that Tokyo refrain from displaying the rising sun flag.

The United States, Australia and Canada are also scheduled to join the upcoming drill, aimed at strengthening capabilities to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the South Korean Defense Ministry said.