Has South Korea and Japan’s military cooperation grown too close for comfort?
If one of late ex-president Roh Moo-hyun‘s aims was to re-position South Korea as a regional balancing act, including an effort to normalize the military command structure, (the negotiation to regain Wartime Operational Control), the Lee Myung-bak administration’s defense policy marked a significant U-Turn and has instead sought to closely integrate defense structure under the collective strategic interests of the U.S. and Japan. Ministerial-level discussion over the signing of a bi-lateral ROK-Japan agreement with the purpose of increasing intelligence sharing and greater interoperability is one such a case that has gained enormous salience within the growing military tension on the Korean peninsula.
While some conservative politicians went so far as to call for the reintroduction of tactical nuclear weapons on South Korean soil to counter the alleged nuclear capability of the North, the Obama administration has strongly opposed any move that may escalate into a full-blown nuclear proliferation in East Asia. However, as the catchily-named ‘National Defense Authorization FY2013 house action amendments‘ released earlier this month revealed, within the Congress there is a movement to redeploy tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea.
The National Committee On North Korea reported earlier that on May 10, 2012, the ‘House Armed Services Committee’ approved by a vote of 32-26 an amendment to the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act expressing in support in deploying additional conventional forces to South Korea and redeploying tactical nuclear weapons in the Western Pacific – presumably to South Korea. Conservative paper the Chosun Ilbo elaborated on the full implication of this move by the US, stating that ‘if the U.S. redeploys nuclear weapons here, it means we are abandoning the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula adopted by the two Koreas in December 1991. This can only mean that we are removing the solid grounds to persuade North Korea to give up its own nuclear weapons.’
Signing Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) now a possibility
The Ministry of National Defense (MND) on ‘the need to cooperate with Japan’ is worried over anti-Japanese sentiment amongst neighboring countries.
South Korea and Japan are set to have the 16th Ministry of Defense meeting in Japan in which the first military agreement between the two countries could be signed. Controversy over past aggression is expected.
The main focus of the bilateral agreement is over the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) and General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA). GSOMIA enables the sharing of military intelligence between the signatories and there is already the ROK-USA agreement and USA-Japan agreement. ACSA enables the interoperability of military supplies and services in the case of the UN Peacekeeping Operation or large-scale disaster relief operations.
The MND official reported on the 8th that ‘[W]e are trying to coordinate the negotiation items for the next defense ministerial meeting by the end of May. This meeting is a follow-up to the 15th South Korea-Japan Defense Ministerial Meeting in which the agreement for the initiation of bilateral negotiation for ACSA and GSOMIA was reached. Whether or not the two agreements will be signed simultaneously is uncertain but the government official admitted that ‘the technical details (of the agreement) are being hammered out and some form of agreement is in the offing.’
Due to the sensitive nature of the military intelligence the South Korean government expressed intent to sign the GSOMIA first before the ACSA but the possibility of signing both agreements is not being denied. The MND official said ‘Japan was in shock over not having detected the launch of Gyangmyung-sung 3 despite being in command of the 3 Aegis ships and 10 Airborne Early Warning planes [AEW],’ adding ‘they wish to cooperate with the South Korean military who was able to detect the Gwangmyeong-sung 3 in real-time.’ This marks a dramatic shift in the Japan attitude which earlier ejected the South Korean naval attaché for fear of information leak in the last trial of Surface-to-Air missile SM-3 launch. Japan is thought to be particularly interested in the South Korean human intelligence [humint] capability against North Korea.
The government explained their position with regard to the military agreement ‘in the event of overseas disaster relief operation, there is quite a lot of room for cooperation with Japan but so far there has not been any formal basis on which to cooperate – reaching the agreement is necessary in order to resolve this issue.
However, there is some voices of concern for what has been virtually a taboo issue between the two countries. The hegemonic struggle between China, Russia and Japan may be escalated. Jaju Gukbang Network CEO Shin In-gyun said ‘it may be beneficial on military level but in terms of net-gain on diplomatic front, we may need to do more calculations.’ He cautioned that ‘this may open up to the possibility whereby the South Korean government may find itself in an unwanted position of having to pick side between Japan and China.’ Defense 21 editor-in-chief Kim Jong-dae criticized this as tantamount to using ‘the Korean peninsular as the bulwark for the Japanese defense in the event of additional missile launch by North Korea.’ Also, there is an underlying effort by the United States to form a collective defense posture against China.’
The procedural issue is also being raised in some quarters. This agreement marks the first bilateral military agreement between South Korea and Japan since the Independence in 1945 and yet there has not been a single congressional hearing regarding this agreement. The MND official said ‘This is more of an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), not a full-scale treaty, and as such the MND is exercising its right fully with the legal remit and does not require the prior approval from the National Assembly.’ However, given the widespread impact this agreement is likely to have within the regional security environment, there is a concern that the national strategic interests may be compromised by the administrative expediency and narrow military interests. Being fully aware of the discomfort this agreement is likely to generate in South Korea, Japan pursued this agreement under the conservative Lee Myung-bak administration.
Comments from Daum:
This is all-out insanity. Japan does not have a military. So what ‘military’ cooperation are they talking about?
I personally admired MB but looking at his policies.. maybe our country is going downhill. I propose impeachment.
Nowhere in the article does it say ‘Military Cooperation Agreement = Military Intelligence Leakage’, so how the hell did they come up with the article title? ha ha, the biggest threat to South Korea is not Japan but China. Same goes for Japan. So that is why China is so opposed to this. In the face of our common enemy China, South Korea and Japan have to cooperate whether we like it or not –;; This is not Chinil and Maeguk [매국/ 賣國 selling out one’s country].’ Why do you think such bitter enemies as England and France joined force together? Such is the nature of international relations.’
Can’t we be a neutral country like Switzerland?
Never with Japan, we know them well. They already have a plan of attack for Dokdo.
How brainless is our top military leadership to think Japan is any different than North Korea!! Any one with common sense would find this government insufferable!’
There is no military in Japan, so what military agreement? It’s as if we are making a military agreement with a tribe in Amazon.
Now that he has got very little time left, he is looking after his own country’s interest…. Dirty chinil scums….
Make a military agreement with Japan, alas! How will we keep them at arm’s length when we share all our secrets?
Is MB from Osaka?….
The agreement is imperative. We have an information-sharing agreement with Russia but there has not been any information leak. This is left-wing chicanery again….
Kato Kiyomasa from the Tokugawa bakufu asked the Joseon Dynasty to open up so that they can attack Ming. Now the same Japanese ask us to open up so because of the North Korean nuclear threat…!!! If we do not oblige… our government will call us bbalgaeng-i and kill us! MB and his Chinil scums…!!!
The Japanese Self Defense Force is not a military… Wake up to that fact. The ROK military is a regular military while SDF is merely a defense force of a former war-criminal country. The SDF has no right to engage in war. To enter into a military agreement with a country with castrated military is to spit in our own face. United, the national conservative force and do away with those who try to undermine our nation.
the Rat’s dream of the second Korea-Japan Annexation‘s first step!
We don’t need any information-sharing agreement with Japan. We can develop our own weapons that are better than Japan. Exclude Japan!!!
Craziness, now we are officially recognizing the SDF as military with this agreement.