Millennium Post

In reversal, Seoul to keep Japan military intelligence pact

Seoul: In a major policy reversal, South Korea said Friday it has decided to continue a 2016 military intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan that it previously said it would terminate amid ongoing tensions over wartime history and trade.

The announcement, made just six hours before the agreement was to expire, followed a strong US push to save the pact, which has been a major symbol of the countries' three-way security cooperation in the face of North Korea's nuclear threat and China's growing influence.

The office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in said it decided to suspend the effect of the three months' notice it gave in August to terminate the agreement after Tokyo agreed to reciprocal measures.

But Kim You-geun, deputy director of South Korea's presidential national security office, said the move was based on the premise that it could end the arrangement at any time depending on how relations with Tokyo proceed.

Kim also said South Korea decided to halt a complaint it filed with the World Trade Organization over Japan's tightened controls on exports of key chemicals that South Korean companies use to make computer chips and displays.

The Japanese government said it has agreed to resume discussions with South Korea on resolving their dispute over the export controls. The military agreement, which Japan had sought to maintain, is automatically extended every year unless either country notifies the other 90 days in advance of its intention to terminate it, a deadline that fell in August.

Washington had no immediate reaction to Seoul's announcement.

Most South Korean analysts had anticipated that the Moon government would let the agreement expire, saying there was no clear way for Seoul to renew it without losing face.

Some saw the Trump administration's public demands for South Korea to reverse the key diplomatic decision as a profound lack of respect for an ally.

The squabble over the Seoul-Tokyo pact came at a delicate time for the alliance between the United States and South Korea.The two countries have struggled to deal with North Korea's nuclear threat while squabbling over defense costs.In a rare public display of discord between the allies, US negotiators on Wednesday cut short a Seoul meeting with South Korean officials over disagreements on how much South Korea should increase its contribution to covering the costs of maintaining the American military presence on its soil.

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