Seoul offers to share intelligence with Beijing

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Seoul offers to share intelligence with Beijing

The Korean government proposed to China a bilateral military intelligence-sharing pact, according to Minister of National Defense Han Min-koo Friday, following its decision to pursue an intel exchange agreement with Tokyo the previous day.

Seoul made a proposal to Beijing to forge a General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) first in 2012, during a Korea-China strategic dialogue, said Han, speaking to the National Assembly Defense Committee. He added, “And we made such a proposal again this time around.”

The Defense Ministry announced its decision Thursday to restart talks on signing a GSOMIA with Tokyo in order to better respond to Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile threats. The agreement has been a sensitive issue because of Japan’s colonial rule over Korea from 1910 to 1945.

A Defense Ministry official said, “South Korea determined that we need to expand our sharing of military information with China because China, which has a blood alliance with North Korea, has various types of information on North Korea, including about its nuclear and missile program.”

In the event that Seoul is able, following similar pacts with other neighboring countries, to share military intel with Pyongyang’s closest ally, this would mean further isolating the regime. Seoul already sealed a GSOMIA with Russia in 2001.

Washington and Seoul have pushed to further isolate Pyongyang from the international community for its continued provocations, including encouraging countries to cut diplomatic relations with North Korea in the United Nations.

But some analysts have suggested Korea is proposing a GSOMIA with China to counter any possible backlash from Beijing since Seoul has been increasing its trilateral cooperation with Tokyo and Washington.

A deal to share military information with Tokyo fell apart in June 2012 amid domestic outcries over the secretive nature of the closed-door negotiations, especially given ongoing historical and territorial issues.

Korea, however, agreed to share intelligence with Tokyo, having Washington act as an intermediary though a trilateral information-sharing arrangement in December 2014. Korea currently has intelligence-sharing agreements with 32 countries, including the United States, Russia and France. It is planning on pursuing further information-sharing agreements with 11 countries, including Japan and China, as well as South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Peru, Mongolia, Turkey, Thailand, the Czech Republic, Germany and Indonesia.

But observers point out that China may not be entirely receptive to the proposal for a GSOMIA. Beijing has not yet responded.

BY SARAH KIM, JEONG YONG-SOO [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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