SEOUL, Nov. 22 (Korea Bizwire) – The South Korean government on Tuesday approved a controversial intelligence sharing pact with Japan, citing the need to expand cooperation with the neighboring country in the face of growing nuclear and missile threats from North Korea.
The endorsement of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) comes less than a month after they resumed discussions on Oct. 27 following a hiatus of four years.
Defense Minister Han Min-koo and Japanese Ambassador to Seoul Yasumasa Nagamine will officially sign the agreement in Seoul on Wednesday, the defense ministry said.
Once it goes into effect, the pact will allow the two countries to share information on Pyongyang without having to going through the United States.
“The signing of GSOMIA with Japan will help South Korea fully utilize Japan’s advanced information-gathering capabilities on the North’s nuclear and missile programs,” a defense ministry official said.
The ministry said Japan’s satellite photos of North Korea, as well as its information on submarine-launched ballistic missiles, will especially beef up South Korea’s defense capabilities.
The government has argued that quicker information sharing is critical as Pyongyang has stepped up its saber rattling.
Despite such assertions, the opposition bloc, reflecting general negative views toward Japan, has been against the pact from the outset.
Opposition parties and progressive activists have opposed the deal, arguing Japan has not sincerely apologized for its wartime atrocities while moving to expand its military role overseas.
Three opposition parties — the Democratic Party, the People’s Party and the Justice Party — said they will submit a joint motion to dismiss the defense minister on Nov. 30.
South Korea on the whole remains cool toward any military agreement with Japan, especially since Tokyo, which colonized the Korean Peninsula from 1910-45, has been making several attempts to whitewash and even glorify its past aggressions.
South Korea sought to clinch the deal during the preceding Lee Myung-bak administration in 2012, but it was eventually scrapped due to strong opposition questioning the transparency of the preparation procedures.
In December 2014, South Korea, the U.S. and Japan signed a preliminary deal that calls for the voluntary sharing of military secrets on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. The deal allows Seoul and Tokyo to share such intelligence via the U.S. after their bilateral pact fell through in 2012.
Pyongyang’s repeated provocations have provided strong momentum for Seoul and Tokyo to resume discussions about the GSOMIA. The communist country conducted two underground nuclear tests this year alone, following the detonations of nuclear devices in 2006, 2009 and 2013.
Defying international condemnation, North Korea has also test-fired more than 20 ballistic missiles so far this year, including intermediate-range Musudan and submarine-launched missiles.
Currently, Seoul maintains pacts with 32 countries for sharing military information. It has recently asked China to start negotiations on such a pact, but China has not responded yet.