US, Japan and South Korea to share intelligence on North Korea

SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association) South Korea, the US and Japan will sign a trilateral intelligence-sharing agreement on Monday to better cope with North Korea’s increasing military threats, Seoul’s defence ministry said on Friday.

The “imminent” deal will be the first such pact to help deter and swiftly respond to the North’s military provocations, the ministry said in a statement.

“The three countries have felt the growing need and importance of sharing intelligence on North Korea’s increasing nuclear and missile threats,” the statement said. The deal will be remotely signed by the deputy defence ministers in each country, according to a ministry spokesman.

Under the agreement, Seoul and Tokyo will share intelligence via Washington only on Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes. South Korean officials expect to gain access to Japanese intelligence assets to boost its surveillance of the North.

South Korean officials believe the North has made much progress in making nuclear warheads smaller and lighter in its quest to place them on long-range missiles. North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006, with a second coming in 2009 and a third in 2013.

The defence ministry in Seoul said sudden military provocation by North Korea was possible at any time, given its strengthened missile-firing capability. It added that North Korea now had the capability to strike the US mainland as well as the South and Japan.

South Korea and Japan, key American allies in Asia, each have separate bilateral intelligence-sharing agreements with the US. Tens of thousands of American troops are stationed in each country.

But there is no bilateral pact between Seoul and Tokyo, with relations strained because of long-running historical and territorial disputes. The nations almost signed their first ever intelligence-sharing pact in 2012 but the deal was scrapped at the last minute because of a public backlash in South Korea. There is still strong public animosity in South Korea towards Japan, which ruled the Korean peninsula as a colony for 35 years from 1910.

Officials in Washington are desperate to see Seoul and Tokyo put their differences behind them and enhance a security alliance to counter China’s rise as well as North Korea’s threats. But South Korean President Park Geun-hye and her Japanese counterpart Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have yet to hold a formal meeting.

Relations became further strained when Mr Abe last year enraged South Koreans by visiting Yasukuni shrine, a memorial to Japan’s 2.4m dead including 14 Class A convicted war criminals.

North Korea has intensified its hostile rhetoric against the US, vowing to bolster its nuclear arms programme in response to the UN’s criticism of its human rights problems.

This month Pyongyang warned of strikes against the US in retaliation for Washington blaming Pyongyang for a hack attack on Sony.

On Thursday The Interview , a film produced by Sony Pictures about the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, had a limited US release after Sony reversed its decision to pull the film. The initial decision was made in the face of online threats of terrorist attacks against cinemas.


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