Seoul, Tokyo set to ink military intelligence pact on N. Korea

SEOUL • South Korea plans to sign a provisional military pact with Japan to share intelligence on North Korea as early as next week, said the Defence Ministry yesterday.

"South Korea and Japan will hold a third round of working-level talks and tentatively sign the General Security of Military Information Agreement next week," Defence Ministry spokesman Moon Sang Gyun said in a press briefing.

Defence Minister Han Min Koo has told lawmakers that the bilateral pact would help Seoul counter growing nuclear and missile threats from North Korea, reported Yonhap news agency.

Under the pact, Seoul will get access to intelligence collected by Japan's surveillance satellites and Aegis-equipped destroyers.

Seoul and Tokyo resumed talks on the accord last week, four years after the pact was first proposed.

The first working-level dialogue was held on Nov 1 in Tokyo.

The second meeting was held in Seoul on Wednesday, and the third one is expected to be held in Tokyo next week.

Both sides first initiated the pact in 2012, but talks were called off in the face of domestic opposition in South Korea.

Opposition parties and civic groups claimed the deal was arranged too hastily and not given enough public debate.

Two years later, the United States persuaded South Korea and Japan to sign a trilateral pact on sharing intelligence on North Korea's nuclear and missile activities.

Even then, Japan and South Korea did not agree to share data directly; under the agreement, the US acted as an intermediary, according to the New York Times.

South Korean opposition parties still oppose the pact, saying Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has yet to sincerely apologise for Japan's wartime wrongdoings while pursuing a bigger overseas role for the Japanese military.

Yonhap reported that Seoul maintains pacts with 32 countries on the sharing of military information.

It has recently asked China to start negotiations on such an accord, but Beijing has not responded yet.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2016, with the headline 'Seoul, Tokyo set to ink military intelligence pact on N. Korea'. Print Edition | Subscribe