Amid global concerns over monitoring North Korea’s access to nuclear weapons, South Korea has announced that it will pull out of an intelligence sharing agreement with Japan that has helped the two US allies monitor the region.
South Korea is now saying it plans to strengthen its military alliance with the United States, following the announcement that it will end an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan.
The General Security of Military Information Agreement, which was set to renew on Saturday, has allowed South Korea and Japan to share information with one another about threats posed by North Korea in the region. But South Korea has announced that it is pulling out of the agreement, citing Japan’s decision to downgrade South Korea’s trade status earlier this month.
“Our government has judged that the Japanese government has caused serious changes to the bilateral security cooperation environment by removing our country from its whitelist on August 2,” said Kim You-geun, South Korean Deputy Director of National Security.
South Korea is accusing Japan of damaging the trust between the two countries, claiming it does not want to share sensitive security information as a result. But Japan has fired back and accused South Korea of failing to understand the security environment in the region, which includes cooperation with the United States.
“(South) Korea is linking their decision to terminate the agreement and our country’s export control review. The two issues are of completely different dimensions. (The) South Korean argument is absolutely unacceptable,” said Taro Kono, Japanese Foreign Minister.
As reports have noted, tensions increased between the two countries last year, over diplomatic arguments about “compensation for wartime forced laborers during Japan’s occupation of Korea.”
While Japan claims it resolved the matter when the two countries established ties back in 1965, a South Korean court ruled otherwise. Then last month, Japan increased controls on exports of high-tech materials to South Korea. And this month, Japan removed South Korea from its fast-track export status.
Now, Japan is calling for South Korea to rethink its decision, and South Korea is claiming that Japan has refused opportunities to continue dialogue.
In response to the news, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US is disappointed by South Korea’s decision, but still encourages both countries to continue talks to restore their relationship.
While some experts doubted that South Korea would go as far as to actually pull out of the intelligence-sharing agreement, because it feared backlash from the US, others argue that because South Korea has been trying to get the US to help resolve the ongoing trade dispute, this may have been just the move to get Washington’s attention.