South Korea to exit intelligence-sharing pact with Japan

South Korea to exit intelligence-sharing pact with Japan
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South Korea reportedly announced Thursday it is scrapping an intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan over ongoing disputes over diplomacy and trade.

The arrangement was intended to share information between the two countries over the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. The decision to scrap it comes shortly after Pyongyang launched a series of short-range projectiles in part over what it sees as threatening military ramp-ups in South Korea and Japan.

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The General Security of Military Information Agreement was set to be automatically renewed Saturday unless either side decided to cancel it.

Seoul accused Tokyo of creating a “grave change” by removing South Korea’s fast-track export status. Japan cited unspecified security concerns in making the trade decision.

“Under this situation, we have determined that it would not serve our national interest to maintain an agreement we signed with the aim of exchanging military information which is sensitive to security,” Kim You-geun, a deputy director of the Korean National Security Council, said at a news conference, according to Reuters.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono torched South Korea for canceling the agreement, calling it a “completely mistaken response” and extremely regrettable, Reuters reported. Tokyo later summoned the South Korean ambassador to protest the decision officially.

The U.S. urged the two sides to come to another arrangement swiftly, saying all three countries are safer when they cooperate. 

“We encourage Japan and Korea to work together to resolve their differences,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn told Reuters. “I hope they can do this quickly.”

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha emphasized that Seoul has lost trust in Japan, not the U.S.

“We will continue to strengthen cooperation with the United States and develop the alliance,” she told reporters in Seoul.

South Korea and Japan shared intelligence through the U.S. prior to the agreement’s signing in 2016. The deal was signed under pressure from Washington and despite opposition from some South Korean political parties still bitter over Japanese actions during its colonial rule of Korea from 1910 until the end of World War II.

The deal’s cancellation sparked fears that Japan and South Korea could be less prepared for aggression from Pyongyang.

“There’s a lot more for us to lose than to gain,” Shin Beom-chul, a senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, told Reuters. “It would increase our own security concerns and inflict diplomatic isolation upon ourselves by destroying the foundation of trilateral security cooperation with the United States.”