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South Korea, Japan to sign defense pacts

South Korea and Japan are moving to lay the ground for closer military cooperation as the North Korea threat and regional instability grows.

The two countries are pushing to sign two military agreements by the end of the month, according to Seoul’s Ministry of National Defense.

Korea and Japan have been working together to form the General Security of Military Information Agreement and Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement since January last year, during Japanese Minister of Defense Toshimi Kitazawa’s visit.

Although the agreements are said to be relatively basic military pacts, their signing is expected to improve cooperation between Seoul and Tokyo while North Korea continues to influence stability in the region.

The two sides are said to have narrowed differences, and the agreements could be signed as early as late this month during Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin’s visit to Japan.

“Since then (January 2011), we have worked on the agreements, but the processes have been delayed by various Korea-Japan issues,” a defense ministry official said. He added that as the two countries have been pushing to speed up the process, North Korea’s long-range rocket that failed on April 13 was not a factor in the setting the target date for the signing at the end of May.

“Efforts were made to finalize the agreements at the beginning of the month but due to difficulties, we are now negotiating the timeframe and the agenda with the aim of concluding by the end of the month.”

The General Security of Military Information Agreement of GSOMIA allows the militaries of concerned countries to share information on various issues including that regarding search and rescue missions as well as North Korea-related intelligence.

“GSOMIA is required for sharing information, and there is a need for sharing information on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. The ministry has signed the agreement with 24 countries, and an agreement with Japan is essential,” the defense ministry said.

Japan’s military possesses a number of high-tech surveillance equipment including six Aegis destroyers fitted with the latest radar equipment and several early warning aircrafts, giving Japan an advantage in monitoring developments in North Korea.

Regarding the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement, the defense ministry said that the agreement allows the Korean and Japanese militaries to provide services and supplies to each other while on overseas missions more efficiently.

Korea currently has the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement with 10 countries, and is in the process of negotiating the agreement with further 10 countries.

By Choi He-suk (