Seoul aims to conclude a memorandum of understanding with Washington and Tokyo to protect military intelligence. The agreement is seen as a more viable alternative to a military intelligence-sharing deal with Japan that the government had to drop in 2012 after fierce opposition at home.
"We can no longer neglect the issue of trilateral security cooperation among Seoul, Washington and Tokyo as North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats increase," a government source said on Sunday. "We're considering an MOU among defense ministers or defense intelligence chiefs to protect military intelligence instead of a bilateral agreement that could cause political controversy."
Such agreements already exist between Seoul and Washington and between Washington and Tokyo, but not between Seoul and Tokyo. The latest approach seems to be an attempt to seek a trilateral deal at a time when it is difficult for Seoul and Tokyo to conclude any purely bilateral agreement.
Washington was upset that the original deal fell through, but anger in South Korea over the Japanese government’s lurch to the far right put the brakes on any progress.
But Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently backtracked over plans to revise statements from previous administrations admitting wartime atrocities, which led to a trilateral summit on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague.
The statements, which Abe had earlier pushed to amend, acknowledge that the Japanese Imperial Army was involved in the establishment of wartime brothels involving Korean "comfort women" and apologized for the suffering caused by Japan to its Asian neighbors.
The source said the government here has basically agreed to the trilateral intelligence deal but is watching the Abe administration's behavior before discussing it openly.