Despite its agreement with Japan to share military intelligence last year, South Korea has limited the scope of information-sharing to only those related to North Korea’s nuclear and missile program, a Japanese newspaper said on Sunday.
Citing anonymous military sources, Asahi Shimbun reported that the Moon Jae-in administration has refused to provide Japan with military intelligence outside of its own analysis about North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launches.
Seoul and Tokyo signed a “General Security of Military Information Agreement” in 2016 to allow a direct and expedient intelligence sharing without going through the US as an intermediary. The pact was initially to be signed in 2012, but was postponed due to public animosity over Japan’s colonial rule.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Yonhap
Although Seoul’s military shared its intelligence about North Korea’s intermediate-range ballistic missile Hwasong-12 that flew over Japan on Aug. 12 and Sept. 30, it is “unwilling” to do the same with other military intelligence such as the Chinese military activities in the South China Sea, the newspaper said.
To avoid political confrontation, it added, Japan has since made no such proposal to South Korea, which the Japanese military believe lacks advanced surveillance capability except for those provided by US troops stationed in South Korea.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry declined to comment on the report. When the government decided to extend the GSOMIA for a year until 2018, the ministry said the intelligence-sharing pact is largely devoted to their response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat.
The report came amid President Moon’s effort to distant Seoul from a trilateral military alliance with South Korea, Japan and the US. While acknowledging stronger ties with Japan are essential in deterring the North, President Moon has made clear that the cooperation will not turn into a military alliance.
“I don’t think it is appropriate to develop the cooperation to the level of a (trilateral) military alliance,” Moon Jae-in said a recent interview with Singapore’s Channel NewsAsia. “The cooperation is (specifically) aimed at countering North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations.”
When the defense ministry announced the intelligence-sharing agreement in 2016, the military stressed the need for more direct and faster information exchange between the two countries amid ever-growing nuclear and missile threats from North Korea.
The ministry has also emphasized the benefits South Korea would gain from Japan’s superior intelligence assets, such as its six Aegis destroyers, advanced radar technology and anti-submarine reconnaissance equipment.
The two countries had indirectly shared information via the Trilateral Information Sharing Arrangement signed by South Korea, the US and Japan in 2014. But military officials then cited the need for a faster and more direct exchange of information.
By Yeo Jun-suk (email@example.com