News / Asia

S. Korea Postpones Signing Military Pact with Japan

Japanese Foreign Ministry's Press Secretary Yutaka Yokoi listens to a reporter's question during a regular news conference at the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo, June 29, 2012.Japanese Foreign Ministry's Press Secretary Yutaka Yokoi listens to a reporter's question during a regular news conference at the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo, June 29, 2012.
x
Japanese Foreign Ministry's Press Secretary Yutaka Yokoi listens to a reporter's question during a regular news conference at the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo, June 29, 2012.
Japanese Foreign Ministry's Press Secretary Yutaka Yokoi listens to a reporter's question during a regular news conference at the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo, June 29, 2012.
SEOUL — South Korea has requested a last-minute postponement of the signing of an unprecedented agreement with Japan allowing the sharing of classified military data. The delay was caused by political sensitivities in South Korea.
 
The pact to exchange military intelligence would be the first between Seoul and Tokyo since Japan's occupation of Korea.
 
The two neighbors, long wary of each other, share increasing defense concerns about North Korea and China.
 
The signing by Japan's foreign minister and South Korea's ambassador had been expected to take place in Tokyo Friday afternoon. But shortly before pens were to be put to paper, came word that Seoul had requested a delay so the agreement could be explained to worried governing party and angry opposition members of the National Assembly.
 
The politicians object to what they term "a lack of transparency" this week by the South Korean government in approving the pact, as well as lingering but strong anti-Japanese sentiment among citizens.
 
Park Chang-kwoun, senior research fellow at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses,  says while South Korea and Japan enjoy close economic and warming social ties as democratic neighbors their military relationship, by contrast, has been weak.
 
Park says the new agreement would enhance trust and help Seoul with its concerns about Pyongyang because Japan and South Korea could share intelligence on North Korea's programs in pursuit of nuclear bombs and other weapons of mass destruction.
 
But Park cautions that because of long-standing historical and territorial tensions between South Korea and Japan, the worries among citizens of this country about closer cooperation with the Japanese need to be dispelled.
 
The Korean peninsula was under a brutal Japanese occupation for most of the first half of the 20th century and many in South Korea retain anti-Japanese sentiments.
 
South Korean civic groups and opposition politicians have denounced the military agreement, with some alleging it gives Japan a de facto pardon for its wartime atrocities.
 
The previous day, Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae, had tried to downplay the significance of the General Security of Military Information Agreement.
 
Cho says there are inaccurate predictions and misunderstandings about the pact, contending it is not really focused on sharing military secrets. It is a kind of bowl, he explains, and what will be put in that bowl is a completely separate issue yet to be determined.
 
That sort of hedging by various government spokesmen frustrated reporters and infuriated some politicians.
 
The government has also been mum on specifics of the agreement. Media reports say the treaty means South Korea and Japan will be able to share intelligence about North Korea and that Seoul will gain access to images and data intercepts from Japanese spy satellites and surveillance flights.
 
A Japanese government spokesman told VOA Tokyo will “pursue eventual success” of something it considers strategically significant for both countries, as well as the United States. The spokesman, who did not want to be named, expressed understanding of the domestic political sensitivities faced by the South Korean government in concluding the agreement, saying the unexpected delay is “not the end of the world.”
 
In a sign of closer three-way ties, the navies of the United States, South Korea and Japan conducted joint naval maneuvers last week off the Korean peninsula. And South Korea is to participate next week in a maritime interdiction exercise in Japan.
 
The United States maintains numerous military bases in both Japan and South Korea.
 
Officials in Seoul point out South Korea already has intelligence-sharing agreements or related memoranda of understanding with 24 other countries, including the United States, Russia, Germany, Israel and Pakistan. The agreement with Japan would be one of the most significant. However, it now cannot be signed until after legislative discussion here next week.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More