South Korea has called off a series of proposed defense meetings and military exchange programs with Japan, a government source said Monday, reflecting growing uneasiness over the Japanese prime minister's controversial war shrine visit.
Deputy defense ministers of the two Asian neighbors last month held a meeting on the sidelines of the Seoul defense forum and agreed to work together to facilitate exchanges between working-level officials by signing a memorandum of understanding.
Following the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the Yasukuni shrine Thursday, Seoul's defense ministry decided to cancel the plan as well as other military exchange programs scheduled early next year.
"There was a consensus within the South Korean government that working-level military officials need to exchange intelligence although the two nations haven't signed a military intelligence sharing pact," the source said, asking for anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue. "Seoul officials showed positive response to a memorandum of understanding between defense policy departments as requested by Japan."
The two nations last year came close to signing a military pact on boosting exchanges of military intelligence on North Korea, but Seoul dropped the plan due to the wave of opposition from the public. Many South Koreans still resent Japan for its brutal rule over the Korean Peninsula from 1910-1945.
Military officials of the two nations have visited each other's country at the start of every year, but it remains unclear whether they will do so as scheduled amid the frayed bilateral ties.
The ministry is also reconsidering bilateral military exchange programs and visits by Seoul officials to Japan scheduled in the first half of next year, the source noted.
In line with the strong tone set by the South Korean government, the defense ministry on Friday said Abe's "untrustworthy" behavior leaves no room for further military ties between the two Asian neighbors. (Yonhap news)