New ‘Military Cooperation’ Unveiled Between Korea and Japan

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.’

From Daum:

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.’


Sell Seoul out to gaedok and sell out ROK to his mother country….;;


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.


To make an agreement with the enemy locked in territorial dispute over Dokdo ke ke Even a dog would find this laughable.

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  • Wang that!

    This is going to be interesting to watch the relations develop.

    The relations between the two countries can be summed up on that old saying that men say about women… you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them…

  • dim mak

    Do Koreans really think the SDF isn’t a military? A name is just a name people. The Japs still have the second largest fleet in the world

    Nevertheless, why can’t Asians just get along. We would be so fucking strong united instead of hating each other :(

    • Wang that!

      Since 1947, Japan’s constitution has forbidden the formation of a traditional military force. The country has maintained only a Self Defense Force (SDF), with a mission to protect the Japanese mainland…. so by definition it isn’t… but… if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck… its a duck…

      For your second question, getting along is hard to do for that region… too many historical grievances… it is a shame

      • Paul M

        Also the rabid nationalism that politicians and teachers encourage in the 3 countries makes greater cooperation very unpopular with the voters.

        • Wang that!

          That is also a very valid point.

    • Vince

      No disrespect to you, dim mak, but having a Chinese person going around lecturing other cultures on what they should and shouldn’t do (“can’t you see how strong we would be?”) is not substantively different from a Westerner doing the same, with all the condescension that involves — Koreans are entitled to prefer independence to being submerged into being a peripheral cog of a Sinocentric collective in the name of supposed geopolitical influence.

      • dim mak

        And what makes you think a united Asia has to be sinocentric? No one can propose an alliance without ulterior motives?

  • lonetrey

    Asians don’t seem to have much hope for unity.

    And they wonder why Americans are seen as the strongest (not saying we definitely are. just saying we SEEM to be.)

    They’re causing their own suffering, making themselves weak and then complaining about it later, lol.

    • Chucky3176

      lonetrey, dim mak, the biggest obstacle for Asian unity is China. It’s just not an option for neither South Korea and Japan to be united with China. Don’t blame South Korea or Japan for this, it’s just that they have no option.

    • Stories of butts

      East Asia doesnt seem united because its separated into countries. If Japan, South Korea, and China were one whole country with the ethnic groups all bunch up together, it would look more untied but it would be on the same level of displeasure with one another like the many monitory groups within the US. The US may look like a rock in terms of being unity but its more or less a hump of dry mud that turns to dust when you touch it.

      Conclusion: dont jump and judge the three countries when its sorta on the same level as the US.

      • dim mak

        The comparison would be made towards the West in general, not just America

        And in that sense, I’d bet the US has better relations with other English speaking countries than Asian countries do with each other

        • Chucky3176

          So you’re equating China with the US? I’m sorry, your comparison makes zero sense. Like I said, there is zero chance of South Korea allying with China and their Sinocentric Communist anti-democratic regime. Come to think of it, China has no allies other then North Korea and Pakistan and other few despot states. And as I said, South Korea has no choice regarding this matter when you look at China’s actions.

  • glenn

    what’s wrong with establishing alliance among Asian countries?

    I can also sense that the Korean netizens has still a lot of hatred towards Japan.. =)) they might want to try to move on..

    • Vince

      What’s wrong with establishing any alliance?

    • Danny

      There are problems with forming alliances when a country doesn’t seem trust worthy… And that is the current situation. (Goes both ways!)

  • C84

    What on earth could Japan possibly bring in terms of “military cooperation” to SK that they don’t already get from the U.S. “alliance?” Nothing! The two countries hate each other’s guts, so let’s just keep each other very far away. No need to be friends or military allies. When it comes to politics or military, the two countries just don’t mesh or mix. They’ll be at each other’s throats. Do you really think it’s realistic that one could have so many unresolved historical issues that flare up again and again, and still be military allies? The two countries are NOT allies, even if they have the U.S. as an “ally” in common. The smartest comment from the netizens is the one about SK needing to be like neutral Switzerland. You choose the U.S., you piss off China. You get in a pact with Japan, you piss off China. You choose China, you piss off the U.S., but Japan really doesn’t give a shit about us, which is fine by me. If you have to choose one side though, better to lean more towards China since they are so much more influential than the increasingly irrelevant U.S. in East Asia and so much more important because they control the destiny of NK. This conservative SK government is absolutely clueless, which is why they have chosen the sinking ship (U.S. alliance), much to the detriment of the relationship with China.

    • Dan

      I agree with this. As for the NK situation, can someone please enlighten me as to why the US, SK and China can’t come to some kind of agreement in which: (1) China agrees to stop supporting NK and let NK fall (reuniting with SK), (2) SK and the US agrees to the withdrawal of US troops from SK so China doesn’t have to worry about US troops on its border once NK goes back to SK, and (3) Korea agrees to be neutral? After all, wasn’t the whole rationale for China supporting NK based on the idea that it needed a buffer state against the US?

  • It is all good aside from the fact that Japan wants to claim Korea’s seas and coatal islands.

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