South Korea and Japan have signed a provisional military intelligence-sharing accord, South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced on Monday.
The South and Japan held a third round of meetings on November 14 in Tokyo to conclude the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which will allow both to directly exchange classified military information on the DPRK.
“[Both] confirm that there is no different view on the entire agreement document which has been discussed and tentatively signs an agreement,” South Korea’s MND said in a written statement.
In October, the MND argued for the necessity of increasing information cooperation between the two countries in response to the North’s growing missile and nuclear threats.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported on Tuesday that the South would provide Japan with human intelligence (HUMINT), gathered by high-profile North Korean defectors and human networks on the border between the DPRK and China.
The South’s defense ministry, however, declined to comment on the issue.
“Since ‘what to provide’ is related to military intelligence, I’m limited in discussing [the issue] in public,” Moon Sang-gyun, a defense ministry spokesperson, told reporters on Tuesday.
Moon said the agreement document would soon be disclosed to public by mutual consent.
South Korea’s opposition political parties, including the Minjoo Party, the People’s Party and the Justice Party, voiced opposition to the pact.
“The three opposition parties are due to submit a motion to dismiss the South’s Defense Minister Han Min-koo before December 1,” Ki Dong-min, a Minjoo Party spokesperson, told reporters on Tuesday.
The major opposition Minjoo Party announced that political parties planned to submit a bill to a plenary session on December 1, and process the bill on December 2.
The Minjoo Party has claimed the South Korean public is against the signing of the GSOMIA with Japan.
“Because of the self-righteousness and dogmatism of the defense ministry, Republic of Korea Armed Forces will give the Japan Self-Defense Forces its military intelligence without anything redacted,” Minjoo Party chief spokesperson Youn Kwan-suk said in a written statement on Monday.
But a senior researcher at an affiliate of the South Korean defense ministry said that the GSOMIA is a necessary deal for the South, particularly from the perspective of national security.
“Japan has a variety of military assets for intelligence collection [compared to the South]. And it operates several military satellites, six Aegis-equipped surface warships and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery,” the researcher, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of speaking to media, told NK News.
“Since its intelligence exchange, both give and take necessary information. We very much benefit,” the researcher said. “For instance, the South doesn’t have military satellite, so the U.S. offers the South satellite pictures. Now, we can receive them from Japan, too.”
Due to a dearth of spy satellite technology, South Korea’s military authorities have been pushing forward a plan to lease four reconnaissance satellites from foreign countries including Israel, France, and Italy, local broadcaster TV Chosun reported on October 18.
This will enable the South to surveil the North even at night, TV Chosun added.
In October, the South MND confirmed that Japan will share imagery and signal intelligence about the North’s transporter erector launcher (TEL) which is located by a reconnaissance satellite and plane.
Daniel Pinkston, a North Korea watcher and lecturer at Troy University, said opposition parties should consider “the national security implications” and leave politics out of it.
“If people let their emotions drive their national security strategy and national decision-making, they will be much more likely to make ‘catastrophic errors,'” Pinkston told NK News, adding the opposition response is “an emotional knee-jerk reaction.”
Pinkston argued that one side is likely to have information that would be “beneficial to decision-making” in the case of military crisis.
“Let’s suppose North Korea is planning or launching a military attack against the South and that Japan has information about it,” Pinkston said. “If there is no mechanism to share that information securely, that situation could be detrimental to South Korean national security.”
Feature Image: The Blue House
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