South Korean opposition to block any military intelligence sharing deal with Japan
South Korea’s main opposition parties expressed strong objections on Monday to any attempt by the government to initial a bilateral agreement with Japan on sharing military intelligence, threatening to “dismiss or impeach” the defence minister if that happens.
Meanwhile, South Korea’s Defence Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun emphasised in a press briefing the same day that “priority has been put on the importance of national security” in seeking the agreement with Japan to better cope with North Korea’s military threats.
South Korean media has reported that the two countries plan to initial the agreement as officials meet for a third round of working-level talks on Monday in Tokyo.
Woo Sang-ho, floor leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea, said “procedures will begin to dismiss or impeach the defence minister if the agreement is initialed today.”
The opposition holds a majority in South Korea’s National Assembly.
At a meeting of senior party officials, he also said, “I make it clear that any Cabinet minister should never be tolerated if the minister tries to push for a policy that is being sought unilaterally and also runs contrary to the popular sentiment.”
At the Defence Ministry briefing, Moon was bombarded by questions from local journalists, who criticised the government’s move to sign the agreement with Japan as being too hasty and sought without gaining a sufficient consensus from the people.
In 2012, Japan and South Korea were ready to sign the agreement, but Seoul postponed the process at the last minute due to growing domestic opposition related to negative sentiments regarding Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula before and during the second world war.
“The agreement is being sought based on the judgment that [South Korea] needs to share intelligence with Japan to more effectively respond to ever-growing North Korean nuclear and missile threats,” Moon said.
Asked about the direction of South Korea’s military cooperation with Japan in the future, the spokesman said cooperation with Japan in the military sector has been sustained in the past and will continue in a friendly way in the future.
The General Security of Military Information Agreement is aimed at facilitating the exchange of military intelligence while preventing such information from falling into the hands of other countries.
A South Korean Defense Ministry official said last week the Foreign Ministry has been asked to refer the wordings mutually agreed on by the two countries so far to the Ministry of Government Legislation to conduct a prior review on the agreement.
The deliberation at the Ministry of Government Legislation is a requirement for an agreement to take effect before being finally approved at parliament. The development comes amid political turmoil in South Korea, with President Park Geun-hye being pressured to step down in the wake of a deepening influence-peddling scandal. Her support rating has tumbled to as low as 5 per cent due to allegations of her close friend’s involvement in political affairs.