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Seoul seeks to boost military ties with China

South Korea recently approached China on signing an agreement regarding military supplies during emergency rescue operations as part of broadening defense cooperation between the two countries, officials said Monday.

China, however, is reportedly cautious due to concerns that military agreements with Seoul may negatively impact North Korea.

According to Ministry of National Defense spokesperson Kim Min-seok, the two countries are seeking an agreement similar to the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement but limited to emergency recovery operations.

The ACSA allows the militaries of concerned nations to provide services and supplies to each other while on overseas missions more efficiently. Seoul currently has the ACSA with 10 countries, and is in the process of negotiating the agreement with a further 10.

Kim also said that Russia is among the 24 countries with which South Korea signed the General Security of Military Information Agreement, which allows sharing of information between concerned militaries.

Since Seoul and Beijing upgraded bilateral relations to that of a strategic partnership in 2008, the two countries have been strengthening military cooperation.

Last year the two countries held the first strategic defense talks, where the delegations discussed issues regarding the establishment of defense training exchange channels and ways to expand its scale in the future.

Seoul and Beijing’s militaries have also been holding joint marine search and rescue exercises for some time, and have been working on improving cooperation in areas concerning cross-provision of supplies and services. The two sides have so far held seven rounds of talks regarding the issue.

In addition, North Korea’s continued defiance of international agreements regarding nuclear weapons has highlighted the need for stronger ties with Beijing.

South Korea is currently in talks with Japan on signing the GSOMIA and ACSA.

The process, which the Ministry of National Defense had originally intended to conclude at the end of the month, has been slowed down with the South Korean Minister of Defense Kim Kwan-jin canceling his trip to Japan.

The agreements, which will be the first military pact Seoul signs with Tokyo, stirred up anti-Japan sentiment and prompted some to speculate that Japan’s Self Defense Force could be dispatched to South Korea in emergency situations.

Seoul’s military has rejected such speculation, and said that the Defense Ministry will push for the pacts after further working-level negotiations have been conducted.

By Choi He-suk  (
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Korea Herald daum