South Korea on Monday will tentatively sign a bilateral pact with Japan early next week about sharing military intelligence on North Korea.
South Korea has plans to go ahead, despite strong objections from opposition parties, Yonhap News Agency reported today.
Last week, both the nations reopened negotiations in Tokyo. Though they initiated the pact in 2012, it was suspended signing due to opposition parties and civic groups claiming that the deal was arranged too hastily and in secret.
"South Korea and Japan will hold a third round of working-level talks for the signing of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) in Tokyo on Monday," an official said Saturday. They will "tentatively sign the agreement during the talks." The official added.
The two countries made a draft of the agreement in the past two rounds of working-level talks held respectively in Tokyo on Nov. 1 and Seoul on Nov. 9. Seoul's defense ministry has asked the Ministry of Government Legislation (MOLEG) to review the agreed terms through the foreign ministry.
After the initial review by the MOLEG, the agreement will be examined by related vice ministers and then sent to the Cabinet for approval this month. If approved by the Cabinet and the president, the pact will then be officially inked between the two nations.
Although the two governments have just said the agreement will be signed within this year, the signing can be made as early as this month if the current pace of negotiations continues.
In the past two rounds of talks, the two agreed on these terms: intelligence information obtained by them should not be provided to a third country without each other's approval; only permitted officials will gain access to military information; and a notification should be made immediately to the information-providing country if information is lost or damaged, the ministry said.
The pact will likely set the stage for both countries to share more extensive military information on North Korea. Seoul will get access to intelligence collected by Japan's surveillance satellites and Aegis-equipped destroyers.
In December 2014, South Korea, the U.S. and Japan signed a preliminary deal that calls for voluntary sharing of military secrets on North Korea's nuclear and missile programs. The deal allowed Seoul and Tokyo to share such intelligence via the U.S. after their bilateral pact fell through in 2012.
Defense Minister Han Min-koo has told lawmakers that the bilateral pact would help Seoul counter increasing threats from the nuclear-armed communist regime.
North Korea's repeated provocations have provided strong momentum for Seoul and Tokyo to resume discussions about GSOMIA. The communist country conducted two nuclear tests this year alone following detonations of nuclear devices in 2006, 2009 and 2013.
Defying international condemnation, North Korea has also test-fired more than 20 ballistic missiles so far this year, including intermediate-range Musudan and submarine-launched missiles.
Currently, Seoul maintains pacts with 32 countries on sharing military information. It has recently asked China to start negotiations on such a pact, but still it has not received response.
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