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  18 Mar 2023, 12:00

South Korea moves to 'normalise' military pact with Japan

SEOUL, March 18, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - South Korea will fully implement a key
military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, a defence ministry official
told AFP on Saturday, as the two countries move to thaw long-frozen relations
and renew diplomacy to counter Pyongyang.

At a fence-mending summit on Thursday, the neighbours agreed to turn the page
on a bitter dispute over Japan's use of war-time forced labour.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, who has been keen to end the spat and
present a united front against the nuclear-armed North, had flown to Japan to
meet Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, the first such summit in 12 years.

According to a pool report, Yoon told Kishida he wanted a "complete
normalisation" of a 2016 military agreement called the General Security of
Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which enables the two US allies to
share military secrets, particularly over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile
capacity.

Following the summit, South Korea's foreign ministry was asked "to proceed
with the needed measures to normalise the agreement," said a defence ministry
official, who declined to be named.

The foreign ministry is expected to send a formal letter to its Japanese
counterpart soon, the official added.

Seoul had threatened to scrap GSOMIA in 2019 as relations with Tokyo soured
over trade disputes and a historical row stemming from Japan's 35-year
colonial rule over the peninsula.

In response, an alarmed United States said that calling off the pact would
only benefit North Korea and China.

Hours before it was set to expire, South Korea agreed to extend GSOMIA
"conditionally", but warned it could be "terminated" at any moment.

Confronted with Pyongyang's growing aggression and flurry of missile tests,
the neighbours have increasingly sought to bury the hatchet.

The increasing security challenge was thrown into sharp relief just before
Yoon's arrival in Tokyo on Thursday as North Korea test-fired what it said
was an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Last year, Pyongyang declared itself an "irreversible" nuclear power, and
recently leader Kim Jong Un called for an "exponential" increase in weapons
production.

 

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