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South Korea to sign military treaty with Japan

South Korea to sign military treaty with Japan

South Korea said Thursday that it would sign a treaty with Japan that would encourage the sharing of sensitive military data on their common concerns: North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats and China’s growing military might.

“If things go as planned, the pact will be signed on Friday afternoon” by the South Korean ambassador to Tokyo, Shin Kak-soo, and Japan’s foreign minister, Koichiro Gemba, Cho Byung-jae, the spokesman of the South Korean Foreign Ministry said .

The surprise announcement triggered a political firestorm in South Korea, where resentment of Japan’s early 20th-century colonization remains entrenched and any sign of Japan’s growing military role around Korea is met with deep suspicion.

The political opposition accused President Lee Myung-bak of ignoring popular anti-Japanese sentiments in pressing ahead with the treaty, which will be the first military pact between the two nations since the end of colonization in 1945.

The accord, the General Security of Military Information Agreement, provides a legal framework for the two nations to share and protect classified and other sensitive data. The governments in Seoul and Tokyo now shared information on North Korea indirectly through Washington.

Officials here said the need for the allies to share information on North Korea has grown more urgent with the increased uncertainty in the North, which is going through a sensitive transition of power following the death of Kim Jong Il last December.

Under the reign of his son, Kim Jong Un, North Korea has vowed to bolster its nuclear weapons production. It launched a rocket in April, and although it failed to put a satellite into orbit, Washington condemned the launching as a test of intercontinental ballistic missile technology.

The political opposition and several civic groups in South Korea warned that the new military cooperation deal between Japan and South Korea would only intensify regional tensions and encourage Japan’s “militaristic ambition.” They accused the South Korean Cabinet of secretly approving the treaty Tuesday.

The Japanese Cabinet was expected to approve the deal by Friday.

“When the Lee Myung-bak government started out, it was pro-American to the bone, and as it nears the end of its term, it is proving pro-Japanese to the bone,” said Park Yong-jin, spokesman of the main opposition Democratic United Party.

South Korea elects Lee’s successor in December.

Mindful of such a political offensive, Hwang Woo-yea, the head of the governing New Frontier Party, visited the disputed islets in the sea between South Korea and Japan on Thursday in a symbolic gesture reconfirming South Korea’s territorial claim.

“Every grain of sand here, every rock here, belongs to South Korea,” he told a contingent of South Korean police guarding the islets.


Updated : 2021-06-22 18:58 GMT+08:00