, Seoul, Jun 28 – South Korea and Japan will sign a landmark military agreement Friday, officials said, despite controversy over what would be the first such accord since Tokyo’s colonial rule ended in 1945.
Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and South Korea’s ambassador Shin Kak-Soo will sign the pact on the “protection of classified information” in Tokyo, Seoul foreign ministry spokesman Cho Byung-Jae said Thursday.
Many older Koreans have bitter memories of Japan’s brutal 1910-45 colonial rule and military cooperation is a sensitive issue.
But media reports said the two nations hope to expand defence cooperation amid increasing military threats from North Korea, especially after the death of leader Kim Jong-Il last December.
The pact calls for sharing intelligence about North Korea and its nuclear and missile programmes among other topics, Yonhap news agency has said.
Cho said the two countries had long been talking about such an agreement, but denied the North’s long-range missile launch in April and other military threats forced Seoul to hurry the pact.
Citing lingering anti-Japan hostility, South Korea last month suspended the signing of the agreement, and of another military accord on sharing logistics and cooperation in peacekeeping.
Seoul decided to go ahead with the intelligence agreement while shelving the more sensitive logistics accord. Cho said Seoul and Tokyo were were still considering the logistics agreement.
The impending agreement sparked angry reaction from the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) and activists.
DUP floor leader Park Jie-Won argued the pact would only intensify military confrontation in northeast Asia, and attacked the cabinet for approving it behind closed doors.
Watchdog group Citizens Coalition for Economic Justice said the pact would help Japan’s rearmament and pave the way for its troops to set foot on the Korean peninsula.
Historical disputes still mar the relationship.
The two countries wrangle over ownership of rocky islets in the Sea of Japan (East Sea). And Tokyo has rejected talks on compensating Korean women used by Japan as military sex slaves during World War II.
But South Korea wants to use Japan’s intelligence assets, including its spy satellites and high-end surveillance aircraft, Yonhap quoted a South Korean official as saying Wednesday.
The military intelligence pact is also needed to cope with China’s rise, the official said.