The government is apparently unwilling to scrap a military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, despite a firestorm of criticism over its mishandling of the agreement. The pact only seems to have been shelved until a more propitious moment.
The resignation on Thursday of Kim Tae-hyo, the senior presidential secretary for national security strategy, reflects Cheong Wa Dae's decision to hold him responsible for procedural blunders but not for pursuing the pact itself.
President Lee Myung-bak said in a meeting with senior secretaries on Monday, "This pact, which has already been signed by 24 countries including Russia and needs to be signed with China as well, is beneficial to the country."
The government is convinced that there are no problems with the accord itself, which merely sets the parameters of military intelligence sharing between Seoul and Tokyo, without obliging Korea to hand any sensitive information over to Japan. "It was clearly wrong to try and pass the pact in the Cabinet behind closed doors," a Foreign Ministry official here admitted. "But after a while we'll see just how ridiculous it was for some opponents to compare it with the Protectorate Treaty between Korea and Japan" in 1905 that paved the way for Japan's occupation or "the Japanese invasion" in 1592.
The government's plan is to sit out the storm and gauge public opinion rather than attempt to force the pact through immediately.
At the moment Japan is in trouble with its neighbors over recommendations by a committee under the Japanese prime minister to expand the scope of its military deployment.
Japan's defense White Paper laying claim to Korea's Dokdo islets is expected to be published soon, and Tokyo's approval of history texts that whitewash Japan's World War II atrocities is sure to ignite more protests from Seoul. Anti-Japanese sentiment in the wake of these developments makes the signing of the pact unlikely in the immediate future.