U.S. welcomes S. Korea-Japan intel sharing deal
WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. Defense Department on Monday welcomed the provisional signing of a military intelligence sharing agreement between South Korea and Japan.
"We noted the recent media reports that the Governments of the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Japan reached a provisional agreement on a bilateral General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA)," Cmdr. Gary Ross, a Pentagon spokesman, told Yonhap News Agency.
"A potential ROK-Japan GSOMIA could strengthen cooperation between our two closest allies in Northeast Asia, particularly in light of the growing threat posed by North Korea," he said.
Earlier Monday, the South and Japan initialed the deal after talks in Tokyo. Officials said the two countries plan to continue consultations through defense and diplomatic channels and take follow-up steps to sign off on the formal pact as early as this month.
In 2012, Seoul and Tokyo were close to a deal on sharing military information, but the negotiations ultimately fell through due to negative public sentiment in South Korea about signing such a pact with its former colonial master. Korea was a colony of Japan from 1910 to 1945.
In an effort to get around the historical hurdle, the U.S. led efforts to conclude a trilateral military information-sharing agreement with South Korea and Japan, and the memorandum of understanding, signed in late 2014, enabled Seoul and Tokyo share intelligence via the U.S.
Despite the trilateral deal, U.S. officials have called for a bilateral pact between Seoul and Tokyo as they seek to bolster three-way security cooperation with the two allies as a counterbalance to China's rise.