South Korea asks IOC to ban ‘rising sun’ flag at Tokyo Olympics

South Korea is calling the Japanese flag a symbol of Japan’s brutal wartime past. (AP)
Updated 11 September 2019

South Korea asks IOC to ban ‘rising sun’ flag at Tokyo Olympics

  • South Korean Olympic officials last month urged the local organizing committee to ban the flag
  • Tokyo organizers responded by saying it was widely used in Japan, was not considered a political statement

SEOUL, South Korea: South Korea has formally asked the International Olympic Committee to ban the Japanese “rising sun” flag at next year’s Tokyo Games, calling it a symbol of Japan’s brutal wartime past and comparing it with the Nazi swastika.
South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on Wednesday said it sent a letter to IOC President Thomas Bach expressing “deep disappointment and concern” over Japanese plans to allow the flag in stadiums and other facilities during the 2020 Olympics.
South Korean Olympic officials last month urged the local organizing committee to ban the flag, but Tokyo organizers responded by saying it was widely used in Japan, was not considered a political statement and “it is not viewed as a prohibited item.”
The flag, portraying a red sun with 16 rays extending outward, is resented by many South Koreans, who still harbor animosity over Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
The ministry said in its letter to Bach, it described the flag as an unmistakable political symbol that’s embraced by Japanese rightwing protesters who vent anger toward Koreans and other foreigners. It said the flag recalls “historic scars and pain” for the people of South Korea, China and other Asian countries that experienced Japan’s wartime military aggression, similar to how the (swastika) reminds Europeans of the nightmare of World War II.”
The ministry said it also pointed out that FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, has banned the flag in international matches.
We “emphasized that the use of the rising sun flag during the Tokyo Olympics would be a direct violation of the Olympic spirit promoting world peace and love for humanity, and that the IOC should have the Tokyo organizing committee withdraw its (current) stance on the flag and prepare strict measures to prevent it from being brought to stadiums,” the ministry said.
Tokyo’s Olympic organizing committee didn’t immediately react to South Korea’s request to the IOC to ban the flag at the games.


Afghan govt. vows to probe civilian deaths in Kunduz airstrike

Updated 20 September 2020

Afghan govt. vows to probe civilian deaths in Kunduz airstrike

  • There have been conflicting reports from lawmakers and residents about number of fatalities
  • Taliban says none of its fighters killed in attack

KABUL: Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry pledged on Sunday to probe “allegations” of at least 12 civilians being killed in an airstrike targeting Taliban fighters in the northern Kunduz province a day earlier.
The pledge followed inconsistencies about the number of casualties, with the insurgent group saying that none of its men had died in the attack.
“The Taliban were the target, and 30 of them were killed. Initial reports indicate no harm was inflicted upon civilians, but we are probing reports by locals about civilian casualties. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces take allegations of civilian harm seriously, and these claims will be investigated,” Fawad Aman, a spokesman for the defense ministry in Kabul, told Arab News.
He added that the ministry would “share any details” about civilian casualties “once the probe is over.”
If confirmed, Saturday’s airstrike in the Khan Abad district, which lies nearly 350 km from Kabul and is mostly controlled by the Taliban, will be the latest in a series of air raids killing civilians in several parts of the country.
It follows a week after crucial intra-Afghan talks between the government and Taliban officials began in Doha, Qatar on Saturday, to end the protracted war and plan a roadmap for peace in Afghanistan.
There were conflicting accounts from civilians and lawmakers in the area about the incident, with two provincial council members, Ghulam Rabbani Rabbani and Sayed Yusuf, saying that at least 12 civilians had died in Saturday’s air raid.
“Since the area is under Taliban’s control, we have not been able to find out exactly how the civilians were killed,” Rabbani told Arab News.
Meanwhile, Nilofar Jalali, a legislator from Kunduz, offered another version of the attack, which she said “hit a residential area before sunrise when people were still in their bed.”
“Children and women are among the dead, and 18 civilians have also been wounded. I informed the defense minister about it; he said he will check and get back to me, but has not,” she told Arab News. However, Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, denied the reports in a statement on Sunday, saying that “no fighter of the group was killed,” before placing the number of civilian deaths at 23.
Kunduz and other parts of the country have witnessed an escalation in attacks by both the government and the Taliban in recent weeks, despite their negotiators participating in the Qatar talks which are part of a US-facilitated process following 19 years of conflict in the country — Washington’s longest war in history.
The Qatar discussions are based on a historic accord signed between Washington and the Taliban in February this year which, among other things, paves the way for the complete withdrawal of US-led troops from the country by next spring, in return for a pledge from the Taliban not to allow use Afghanistan to harm any country’s, including US, interests.
Kabul’s negotiators in Qatar are pushing the Taliban to declare a cease-fire, while the Taliban say it can be included in the agenda and that both sides must first ascertain “the real cause” of the war.
Some analysts believe that while delegates of the parties are struggling to agree over the mechanism and agenda of the talks in Qatar, their fighters in Afghanistan are “focusing on military tactics to capture grounds” so that they can use it as a “bargaining chip” at the negotiation table.
“Both sides think that if they have more territory then they can argue their case from a position of strength during the talks and use it as leverage,” Shafiq Haqpal, an analyst and a former university teacher, told Arab News.
“The sides have not yet agreed on the mechanism of the talks despite the Qatar talks, which began on the 12th of September. So, this is an indication that things are not going the right way politically, and both sides are trying their luck on the battlefield here.”