Seoul, Tokyo agree to increase military intelligence sharing
By Kim Young-jin
Seoul and Tokyo will soon clinch a deal allowing for greater sharing of military intelligence including over North Korea’s weapons program, a government source said.
The sides will sign the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) “as early as this week, or sometime next week at the latest,” the source said on condition of anonymity.
The source said momentum toward the signing has built since the North’s failed satellite launch in April, which was deemed an illegal test of ballistic missile technology by the international community.
While Seoul already has similar deals with 24 other countries, the agreement points to growing trilateral security cooperation for Seoul, Tokyo and Washington in the wake of North Korea’s provocations in 2010. The sides carried out a joint naval drill last week in waters south of Jeju Island, underscoring the cooperation.
Tokyo is concerned with North Korea’s weapons programs as past missile tests have flown over Japan. Japanese satellites reportedly secured evidence recently that a Chinese firm had supplied the Stalinist state with four missile transportation vehicles in what could be a violation of international sanctions.
"Japan has a lot of intelligence on North Korea and the GSOMIA with Japan will benefit us a lot," the official said. "Our network will expand."
Reports said the South had delayed discussion over signing the deal due to Tokyo’s territorial claims to the Dokdo islets, long a diplomatic thorn.
While the North’s new regime under Kim Jong-un has maintained a hard line against Seoul and Washington, it has apparently held off on a third nuclear test under heavy pressure from Beijing its main ally. It has followed up its missile launches with nuclear tests in the past.
Officials here hold cautious view, saying given Kim Jong-un’s inexperience and need to consolidate support, the situation remains unpredictable.
"It is entirely up to North Korea whether and how long this phony stability continues, but it becomes more difficult to predict North Korea's pattern of behavior," one official said earlier this week asking not to be named.