Beijing condemns Seoul and Tokyo over deal to swap defence intelligence
Japan and South Korea say agreement is necessary due to North Korean nuclear and missile threats
China lashed out on Wednesday at Japan and South Korea for creating instability on the Korean peninsula, after the two nations signed a controversial agreement to share defence intelligence.
South Korea said the deal was “necessary” in the face of a growing military threat from Pyongyang, which has conducted two nuclear tests this year.
But Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Japan and South Korea still had a “cold war mentality” and that the agreement would “intensify antagonism and confrontation on the Korean peninsula”.
“The situation facing the Korean peninsula is sensitive and complicated. Relevant countries should respect security concerns of regional countries when carrying out military cooperation, instead of taking the opposite direction,” Geng said.
With the accord, Japan and South Korea are to share more intelligence on regional security, especially regarding North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
South Korea’s defence ministry said Pyongyang was ready to conduct additional nuclear tests and missile launches at any time.
“Since we can now utilise Japan’s intelligence capability to effectively deal with North Korea’s escalating nuclear and missile threats, it will enhance our security,” it said in a statement.
Japan’s foreign ministry said the deal would allow the two governments to “share information even more smoothly and swiftly”.
Seoul and Tokyo currently use Washington as an intermediary when sharing military intelligence on Pyongyang under a deal signed in 2014.
The new agreement is controversial in South Korea, where the legacy of Japan’s harsh 1910-45 rule of the Korean peninsula is a deep well of anti-Japanese sentiment and a belief Tokyo has not properly atoned for its abuses.
South Korea and Japan were on the verge of signing an intelligence-sharing deal in June 2012, but Seoul backtracked in response to a public outcry.
Noting Tokyo’s surveillance assets and geographic location, South Korea’s defence ministry said the deal would be a “big help” in better analysing Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes and collecting more intelligence about its submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
North Korea has slammed the military pact, labelling it as “a dangerous act” that would further raise already-elevated tensions on the Korean peninsula and open a door to Japan’s “re-invasion”.
The contentious issue comes as South Korean President Park Geun-hye faces calls for her resignation over a corruption scandal.
The deal has been fiercely opposed by South Korean opposition parties and activists, who point to Seoul’s failure to seek public support and historical sensitivities. South Korea’s main opposition party has called the deal “unpatriotic and humiliating” and has threatened to impeach Defence Minister Han Min-koo if it is pushed through.
Japan has been proactively seeking bilateral or multilateral defence cooperation with other Asian countries to balance China’s growing influence over the past years.
Stephan Nagy, an associate professor at Japan’s International Christian University, said in a talk in Beijing that Japan’s latest approach was in line with US president-elect Donald Trump’s view that East Asian countries should shoulder more of their security burden.
A commentary published by the Global Times, affiliated with the state-run People’s Daily, said closer military cooperation between Japan and South Korea would further consolidate the existing US-Japanese and US-South Korean alliance.
Closer military cooperation between Tokyo and Seoul, along with a planned US anti-missile system in South Korea, would “severely damage China’s geopolitical interests and national security structure”, it said.
“South Korea has switched to a new security strategy single-sided with the US and Japan,” the commentary said. “It has opened a Pandora’s box.”
It added that the accord might upset the strategic balance in Northeast Asia, triggering an arms race in the region and damaging ties between Beijing and Seoul.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse