Japan and South Korea yesterday agreed to share intelligence in their first joint military pact since World War II.
The agreement is seen as a breakthrough in ties between two neighbors with a difficult history. Japan ruled Korea as a colony for several decades until the end of World War II and Seoul has often been wary of Japan’s postwar military development, but the nations have many shared concerns, particularly North Korea and China.
The pact establishes a framework for sharing intelligence in such areas as missile defense, North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, Chinese military operations and other regional security matters.
It was previously approved by South Korea and Japan’s Cabinet gave its final approval yesterday ahead of a formal signing ceremony.
The two countries are increasingly concerned by potential threats from North Korea, which is developing long-range missile and nuclear weapons capabilities. They are also closely watching the rise of China’s military.
North Korea heightened regional tensions in April with the launch of a rocket that was widely criticized as a test of long-range missile technology. The launch was of particular concern to Seoul and Tokyo because they are within reach of the North’s missile arsenal.
Such fears spurred the government’s efforts to cooperate more closely on intelligence sharing, though the pact remains controversial among some in South Korea.
“An accord for military--information protection with Japan is necessary given the ever-growing threat from the North,” South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo newspaper said in an editorial.
However, critics say the government in Seoul, fearing a backlash from opponents who do not trust Japan, pushed the pact through without allowing enough public debate.
The two countries remain at odds over a territorial dispute that has marred their relations.