South Korea, Japan sign intelligence-sharing deal on North Korea | News | DW | 23.11.2016
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South Korea, Japan sign intelligence-sharing deal on North Korea

South Korea and Japan have signed a controversial agreement to pool military intelligence on Pyongyang's nuclear program. The deal lets both countries bypass the United States when sharing information about North Korea.

The pact, known as the the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), was signed on Wednesday in Seoul by South Korean Defence Minister Han Min-koo and Japan's ambassador to Seoul, Yasumasa Nagamine.

The deal has sparked an outcry from South Korean opposition parties and large sections of the public, many of whom still share anti-Japanese sentiment over Tokyo's harsh colonial rule of the peninsula in first half of the 20th century.

However, Seoul's Defense Ministry said it was "necessary" in the face of an increasing military threat posed by Pyongyang.

Currently, Seoul and Tokyo use Washington as an intermediary when sharing intelligence on North Korea's nuclear program under a deal signed in 2014. The GSOMIA accord will allow both sides to bypass the United States and the incoming Donald Trump administration.

"[North Korea] is ready to conduct additional nuclear tests and missile launches at any time," South Korea's Defense Ministry said. "Since we can now utilize Japan's intelligence capability to effectively deal with North Korea's escalating nuclear and missile threats, it will enhance our security interests."

Japan's Foreign Ministry said the agreement will allow the two governments to " share information even more smoothly and swiftly."

Both countries wanted to sign such a deal in 2012, but Seoul backtracked at the last minute due to domestic opposition.

However, both sides said the case for an information-sharing deal had become increasingly important as the North tested more and more missiles. In September, North Korea also conducted a majornuclear warheadtest.

North Korea on Wednesday slammed the pact, describing it as "dangerous" and warning that it would open a door to a Japanese "re-invasion" of the Korean peninsula.

Backlash in Seoul

The deal has sparked a backlash in the South where anti-Japanese sentiment remains strong among sections of the public. The legacy of Japan's colonial rule of the peninsula between 1910 and 1945 remains a sensitive issue today, with many South Koreans believing Tokyo has never properly atoned for abuses committed in that era.

On Friday, a survey by Gallup Korea showed that 59 percent of more than 1,000 respondents opposed the GSOMIA agreement.

South Korea's main opposition party called the deal "unpatriotic and humiliating," and threatened to impeach Defense Minister Han if the agreement goes through.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye is already facing calls to step down after becoming embroiled in a widening corruption and influence-peddling scandal that has embroiled the government and sparked mass public demonstrations.

dm/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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