South Korea said Friday it will share military intelligence with Japan through the United States after terminating a pact that enabled the two key Washington allies to exchange such information directly.
Seoul's decision on Thursday to end the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) was the latest in a series of tit-for-tat measures that have brought relations between South Korea and Japan to their lowest point in years, AFP reported.
The intensifying trade and diplomatic dispute was sparked by a run of South Korean court rulings against Japanese firms, requiring them to pay for forced labor during World War II – a long-standing point of contention.
Under the GSOMIA, originally signed in 2016, the two had directly shared military secrets, particularly over North Korea's nuclear and missile capacity.
But now South Korea will "actively utilize the trilateral information-sharing channel with the United States as the intermediary" in place of the accord, said Kim Hyun-chong, a national security official at the presidential Blue House.
Relationship between Japan and South Korea continues to be heavily affected by Japan's 35-year colonial rule of the Koran peninsula in the early 20th century.
Japan says a 1965 treaty that normalized relations with a significant financial contribution effectively settled all reparation claims.
Japan’s Prime Minister Abe Shinzo said on Friday Tokyo still expects South Korea to keep its promises on the contentious issue of wartime forced labor and to work to rebuild trust.
Abe’s comments followed South Korea’s announcement on Thursday that it was ending an intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan, according to Reuters.
South Korea announced the termination of the intelligence deal because Tokyo’s decision to downgrade South Korea’s preferential trade status had caused a “grave” change in the security cooperation between the countries. Seoul says it will downgrade Tokyo’s trade status as well, a change that would take effect in September.
Senior South Korean presidential official Kim Hyun-chong on Friday defended his government’s decision. He told reporters that “there is no longer any justification” for South Korea to continue the deal because of Japan’s claim that basic trust between the countries had been undermined.
South Korea has accused Japan of weaponizing trade to punish it over a separate dispute linked to Japan’s brutal colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945. Japan denies any retaliation.