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Published : 2014-07-02 21:00
Updated : 2014-07-02 21:31

The military leaders of the U.S. and Japan agreed on South Korea’s position that Tokyo should not exercise its right to collective self-defense on the Korean Peninsula without Seoul’s request or approval, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday.

The agreement came as South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Choi Yoon-hee, U.S. JCS chief Gen. Martin Dempsey and Gen. Shigeru Iwasaki, the chief of the Joint Staff of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, met to discuss joint efforts to counter North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.

The three-way meeting was held on the sidelines of the U.S.-led multinational “Rim of the Pacific Exercise” in Hawaii after Dempsey invited Choi and Iwasaki for the talks. A day earlier, Japan’s government approved the reinterpretation of the war-renouncing Article 9 of its constitution, allowing for collective self-defense ― the use of force to defend allies under attack.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Choi Yoon-hee (center), U.S. JCS chief Gen. Martin Dempsey (right) and Gen. Shigeru Iwasaki (left), the chief of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces’ Joint Staff meet to discuss North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii on Tuesday. (Joint Chiefs of Staff)

“JSC chief Choi made it clear that even if Japan’s exercise of its right to collective self-defense is for defending itself, any physical military action on the peninsula or any action that affects the operational areas of the peninsula should not be taken without Seoul’s request or approval,” said the JCS in a press release.

“Gen. Dempsey and Gen. Iwasaki agreed on this position.”

Choi also said that for the meeting among the top military officers of the three countries to take place on a regular basis, there should be a “fundamental change” in Japan’s historical understanding.

Anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea has spiked as Tokyo has apparently moved to undercut the credibility of its landmark 1993 apology for Japan’s wartime enslavement of Asian women, indicating that the apology was made as a result of a political deal between the two countries.

The tripartite meeting came hours after Pyongyang fired two short-range rockets with a range of some 180 km into the East Sea on Wednesday. The latest rocket launch came on the eve of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to South Korea. Last Sunday, the communist state also fired two ballistic missiles with a range of some 500 km into the sea.

The three military leaders met for the first time face to face although they have met during video teleconferences, Seoul officials said. The defense chiefs of the three nations have met regularly during an annual security forum in Singapore, but there is no regular dialogue for the three top uniformed officers.

The biennial RIMPAC exercise kicked off on June 26 and will run until Aug. 1, on and around the Hawaiian Islands. The exercise brought together 23 countries including South Korea. China and Brunei took part in the exercise for the first time this year.

By Song Sang-ho (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)

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