Tokyo and Seoul agree to share intelligence on North Korea despite protests
Seoul — Japan and South Korea signed a controversial agreement on Wednesday to share defence intelligence on North Korea, despite big protests from opposition parties and activists in Seoul.
South Korea’s main opposition party called the deal "unpatriotic and humiliating" and threatened to impeach Defence Minister Han Min-Koo if it went ahead.
But South Korea’s defence ministry said the accord was "necessary" with mounting military threats from Pyongyang, which conducted two nuclear tests and more than 20 missile launches this year. "It is ready to conduct additional nuclear tests and missile launches at any time," the ministry said.
"Since we can now utilise Japan’s intelligence capability to effectively deal with North Korea’s escalating nuclear and missile threats, it will enhance our security interests."
Japan’s foreign ministry said the military agreement would enable the two governments to "share information even more smoothly and swiftly".
Seoul and Tokyo have been using Washington as an intermediary in sharing military intelligence on Pyongyang under a deal signed in 2014.
The new agreement is controversial in South Korea, where the legacy of Japan’s harsh 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean peninsula is a deep well of anti-Japanese sentiment and a belief that Tokyo never properly atoned for its abuses in that era.
South Korea and Japan were about to sign an intelligence-sharing deal in June 2012, but Seoul backtracked at the last minute in response to public outcry.
Noting Tokyo’s surveillance assets and geographic location, South Korea’s defence ministry said the deal would be a "big help" in analysing Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes better and collecting more intelligence on its submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
North Korea said the military pact was "dangerous", would aggravate high tension on the Korean peninsula and open a door to Japan’s "reinvasion".
South Korean President Park Geun-Hye faces growing calls for her resignation and protests over a widening corruption and influence-peddling scandal.
The deal is fiercely opposed by South Korean opposition parties and activists, who point to historical sensitivities and Seoul’s failure to seek public support.