Don’t link the past to security
South Korea, the United States and Japan signed a trilateral agreement to share information on nuclear and missile threats from North Korea. Under the deal, Seoul and Tokyo will share military information via Washington, with which the two countries separately have military intelligence pacts, instead of directly exchanging materials. The arrangement would be made among defense ministries and not formerly inked by heads of state in consideration of the public’s negative attitude toward formal military deals with Japan.
The limited or indirect pact between Seoul and Tokyo to share military information on North Korea underscores how complicated and twisted the bilateral relationship is today. South Korea has a security intelligence agreement with Russia and also a memorandum with China. Korea and Japan agreed on comprehensive military intelligence sharing on North Korea in 2012, but the agreement was cancelled at the last minute due to strong opposition from Korean people. The bilateral relationship has remained poor under President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but the two administrations nevertheless sought the trilateral deal amid escalating threats from North Korea.
The three-way security pact will bring more accurate information on North Korean nuclear and missile dangers. South Korea now has access to Japan’s intelligence through their reconnaissance military capabilities in space, sky, sea and land. Tokyo is also said to have a powerful network of sources in North Korea. With North Korea nearing the stage of weaponizing nuclear bombs into missile warheads and capable of shooting missiles from mobile launchers, intelligence resources have become crucial. Security readiness should not be associated with any past issues or public sentiment.
The Korean Defense Ministry said the trilateral information sharing is limited to intelligence on North Korea’s nuclear abilities and missiles and unrelated to the U.S.-led missile defense program. The government should make it clear to the public that its latest move does not indicate participation in the U.S. missile defense program that is being protested by China and Russia. At the same time, Seoul should use the momentum to improve ties with Tokyo. Tokyo should first offer a genuine apology in the thorny issue concerning wartime sexual enslavement of Korean women during the upcoming vice ministerial meeting in Seoul.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 29, Page 30