The U.S. government said Friday that a Seoul-Tokyo accord on sharing military information, if signed, will be "useful, but it maintained a largely cautious stance on the sensitive bilateral issue.
"Such agreements would be useful but we recognize that this is a bilateral issue for the ROK and Japan," a State Department spokesperson told Yonhap News Agency on the customary condition of anonymity. “This is a decision for the ROK and Japan to make. We refer you to their governments for any further information. "It would be inappropriate for us to comment further.” The ROK is the acronym for South Korea's formal name, the Republic of Korea.
The official was responding to South Korea's abrupt decision to postpone the signing of the General Security of Military Information Agreement with Japan, which would be the first-ever defense pact between the neighboring countries. It would allow Washington's two top regional allies to exchange information on missile defense and North Korea's nuclear program.
Earlier this week, South Korea's Cabinet sparked public uproar by endorsing the plan to sign the treaty without public announcement. South Koreans still have a bitter memory of Japan's brutal colonial rule of the peninsula from 1910-1945.
Seoul and Tokyo have often been at the loggerheads over their shared history and conflicting territorial claims. Critics say a military pact with Japan would be premature.
Bowing to public pressure, the ruling Saenuri Party requested the government to put off signing the agreement. Less than one hour before the planned signing ceremony, Seoul notified Tokyo of its decision. The Japanese government expressed dismay, according to local media.
South Korean government officials said it would be difficult to forge the accord this year, especially when South Korea is scheduled to hold presidential elections in December.
The latest development in Seoul-Tokyo relations demonstrated that South Korea and Japan have a long way to go to reach full-scale political, diplomatic and military ties despite their ever-growing economic and cultural exchanges.
This week's events also represent a setback to Washington's continued campaign to strenthening trilateral cooperation with the Northeast Asian powers in dealing with regional security issues. (Yonhap News)