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Japan, South Korea Agree on Closer Military Cooperation

Japan's Defense Minister, Toshimi Kitazawa, being welcomed at the Ministry of National Defense in Seoul by South Korea's Defense Minister, Kim Kwan-jin, Jan. 10, 2011

Defense ministers from South Korea and Japan say they have agreed to closer military cooperation in the face of a series of aggressive actions by North Korea.

Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-jin, also made progress during a meeting Monday toward concluding their countries' first defense cooperation pacts since 1945.

The South Korean Defense Ministry issued a statement after the talks in Seoul saying the ministers agreed that recent North Korean behavior, including its shelling of a South Korean island and its disclosure of a uranium enrichment program, "is not acceptable."

The statement said the nations will hold "specific negotiations toward signing" an agreement for their militaries to exchange goods such as food and fuel during peacetime. They will also continue talks on an agreement for the exchange of classified intelligence.

South Korea and Japan have been working to overcome mutual distrust since North Korea's artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island in late November. The U.S. armed forces chief, Admiral Mike Mullen, called for Japan to play a bigger role in defending South Korea against the North shortly after the attack.

However, the issue remains controversial in South Korea, where many retain bitter feelings about Japan's harsh colonial rule, which ended in 1945. Several activists demonstrated Monday in Seoul with banners against any closer military cooperation with Japan.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.