DN - Defence Notes

Japan and Korea to share intelligence

24th November 2016 - 10:11 GMT | by Gordon Arthur in Hong Kong


Neighbours Japan and South Korea signed a military intelligence-sharing agreement on 23 November.

The impetus for this is North Korea’s belligerent ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programme.

Labelled the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), it will enable the two countries to pool intelligence data. 

GSOMIA went into immediate effect, opening up a channel to exchange sensitive information on things such as Pyongyang’s intent to put nuclear warheads on its arsenal of missiles.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida was quoted as saying, ‘Cooperation between Japan and South Korea is becoming more important than ever in the security sphere as North Korea’s nuclear [development] and missiles pose a different level of threat from before.’

The South Korean government faced stiff opposition from political opponents and a large proportion of the public. Indeed, GSOMIA’s signature had been delayed since 2012 because of it.

Japan and South Korea are extremely mistrustful of each other, and Japan’s colonial occupation of the Korea Peninsula from 1910-45 still rankles with many. The issue of disputed islands such as Dokdo/Takeshima remains extant too.

Japan, South Korea and the US signed a trilateral information-sharing MoU in 2014, which used the US as a middleman since the other two partners were reticent about dealing with each other. This new agreement removes the US from that intermediary role.

Seoul is particularly interested in Japanese high-resolution satellite photos of North Korea, as well as information about submarine-launched ballistic missiles. On the other hand, Seoul has more hands-in human intelligence from inside North Korea. 

Seoul now has intelligence sharing agreements with 33 different countries, so this latest one is not unique. However, with the US still retaining operational wartime control of all bilateral forces based on the peninsula, Seoul is particularly aware of the need to improve its intelligence capacity.

Beijing promptly responded to the GSOMIA announcement. Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang warned it would ‘aggravate antagonism and confrontation on the Korean Peninsula,’ decrying it as a symptom of ‘a Cold War mentality’.

Predictably, Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency also blasted the agreement. ‘The conclusion of the agreement between South Korea and Japan would increase the danger of a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula and gravely threat [sic] the peace and security in northeast Asia and the rest of the world,’ said one editorial.

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