A double-edged sword

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A double-edged sword

A high-ranking official from the Ministry of National Defense said that the government will discuss ways to reach an accord on the exchange of military secrets and logistics assistance with Japan when Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa visits Seoul next week.

The pact would allow both countries to cooperate with each other by sharing military information and logistics in times of crisis.

Korea and Japan have already been cooperating with each other through personnel exchanges and joint military drills for humanitarian missions. More recently, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces participated in a joint ROK-U.S. military exercise, and Korean military officers attended a joint U.S.-Japan drill as observers.

The accord is aimed at strengthening mutual cooperation by sharing intelligence on North Korea’s nuclear weapons, missiles and weapons of mass destruction as well as assisting each other with materials and services, with the exception of military weapons.

If the accord is reached, Korea may benefit particularly in the area of intelligence, as Japan operates three reconnaissance satellites with the ability to identify small objects on the ground. When another satellite is added next year, Japan will be able to maintain a 24/7 monitoring system for the entire Korean Peninsula, which will boost our intelligence on the North’s provocations, another nuclear test and its missile launches.

However, the government should seriously think about potential repercussions from the treaty in a situation where the memories of Japan’s colonization of Korea have not faded and conflicts over territorial rights to the Dokdo islets (a.k.a. Takeshima in Japan) are still simmering.

Many people also worry that Japan is seeking to use the tension on the peninsula stemming from the North’s sinking of the Cheonan warship and its bombardment of Yeonpyeong Island as an opportunity to bolster its military power in the region.

Also, the government should take into account the possibility that military cooperation with Japan could stimulate China to pursue a foreign policy that leads to a Cold War-like atmosphere of confrontation in Northeast Asia.

Of course, things always change as time passes. But we are sure that it is still too early for us to engage in deeper military cooperation with Japan, as it could backfire. Simply put, it could eventually become a double-edged sword for the people of Korea.

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