South Korea is planning to fully implement a key military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, a South Korean Ministry of National Defense official said yesterday, amid the two countries’ efforts to thaw long-frozen relations and renew diplomacy to counter Pyongyang.
At a fence-mending summit on Thursday, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida agreed to turn the page on a bitter dispute over Japan’s use of forced labor during World War II.
Yoon, who has been keen to end the spat and present a united front against nuclear-armed North Korea, traveled to Japan to meet Kishida at the first such summit in 12 years.
Yoon told Kishida he wanted a “complete normalization” of a 2016 military agreement called the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which enables the two US allies to share military secrets, particularly over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile capacity.
Following the summit, the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs was asked “to proceed with the needed measures to normalize the agreement,” said a defense ministry official, who declined to be named.
The foreign ministry is expected to send a formal letter to its Japanese counterpart soon, the official added.
Seoul had threatened to scrap GSOMIA in 2019 as relations with Tokyo soured over trade disputes and a historical row stemming from Japan’s 35-year colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula.
The US at the time said that calling off the pact would only benefit North Korea and China.
Hours before it was set to expire, South Korea agreed to extend GSOMIA “conditionally,” but warned it could be “terminated” at any moment.
Confronted with Pyongyang’s growing aggression and flurry of missile tests, the neighbors have increasingly sought to bury the hatchet. The increasing security challenge was thrown into sharp relief just before Yoon’s arrival in Tokyo on Thursday as North Korea test-fired what it said was its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile.
Separately, the US on Friday accused China of attempting to hide North Korea’s atrocities from the world by blocking the Web cast of an informal meeting of UN Security Council members on accusations of human rights abuses by Pyongyang.
“Some council members are all too willing to shield the regime from accountability,” US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the meeting in a veiled reference to China and Russia.
China and Russia have said that the 15-member Security Council, which is charged with maintaining international peace and security, should not discuss human rights issues.
Thomas-Greenfield said North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs were “inextricably linked to the regime’s human rights abuses.”
“The pursuit of weapons of mass destruction always trumps human rights and humanitarian needs of its people,” she said. “[North Korean leader] Kim Jong-un has chosen ammunition instead of nutrition, missiles over humankind.”
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