Japanese shipwreck off Palau

Tensions over wreck

By Julian Ryall and Nectar Gan - South China Morning Post

Unidentified divers have shown a lack of respect for the dead by attaching a large Chinese flag to the wreck of a Japanese warship that was sunk off the Pacific island of Palau in 1944, according to a Japanese historian.

Hiromichi Moteki - a retired teacher who is today secretary general of the right-wing Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact - said the "provocative and thoughtless actions" of Chinese such as those he presumed were behind the act "no longer surprise" him.

The flag was discovered on Saturday, tied to the railings of the Iro, an oil tanker for the Imperial Japanese Navy that was sunk in March 1944.

According to local dive operators in Palau, the vessel is one of the most popular in local waters because it is a mere 15-minute boat ride from the main harbour.

The Iro had been damaged by a torpedo from the submarine the USS Tunny as she sailed from the Philippines to Palau, but was able to make the anchorage at Urukthapel. The Iro and her sister ship, the Sata, were attacked again by US dive bombers and sunk at anchorage on March 31, 1944.

The Iro sits upright on the seabed in 40 metres of water, with a large gun still in position atop the ship's superstructure.

Divers descending on the wreck on March 21 found and photographed the flag.

"Of course I am angry, but I am not at all surprised," said Moteki, whose nationalist organisation argues that Japanese war crimes have been exaggerated.

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