November 15, 2016 10:58
Korea and Japan in talks in Tokyo on Monday concluded an agreement on sharing military intelligence, the Defense Ministry here said.
It took the two countries just 18 days after they resumed talks on the pact on Oct. 27. This is the second time since 2012 that the government has tried to rush the pact through, fearful of opposition to any military agreement with the former occupying power.
Opposition parties accused the ministry of trying to take advantage of the crony scandal that has engulfed the president and is keeping people’s eyes off the ball. Minjoo Party floor leader Woo Sang-ho said, "We're going to ask for the dismissal of Defense Minister Han Min-koo or initiate impeachment proceedings against him."
The agreement is expected to be signed officially this month once it has been passed by a Cabinet meeting and approved by the president. It covers the exchange, use, storage, and protection of military information between the two countries. Currently any military intelligence on North Korea from Japan has to be passed to Seoul through the U.S.
"Sometimes we've failed to receive military intelligence from Japan in good time because it travels through the U.S.," a government official here said. "Once the agreement is signed, Seoul and Tokyo will be able to exchange all information about the North directly."
Asked why the ministry is rushing the deal through at this time, Han told reporters, "This has nothing to do with the scandal. We're pushing ahead with it out of concern for security."
"We need to make the most of the information about the North that Japan has collected if it's better than ours," a ministry spokesman said.
Japan is much better equipped for surveillance than South Korea. It has six Aegis vessels, 77 P-3C and P-1 maritime patrol aircraft, 17 E-2C early warning and control aircraft, and four ground radars with a range of more than 1,000 km, as well as five to six reconnaissance satellites.
In turn Tokyo is interested in the human intelligence Seoul gathers through senior North Korean defectors.
The ministry dismissed fears that the agreement would pave the way for Japanese troops to set foot on the Korean Peninsula. "It would be impossible for them to come without request or consent," the spokesman added.
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