It is highly significant that Japan and South Korea will be able to smoothly and rapidly take joint action against threats from North Korea’s nuclear and missile development.
Tokyo and Seoul have signed the general security of military information agreement (GSOMIA), under which the two countries will share defense secrets. The accord makes it mandatory for the two countries to classify military-related documents and images provided by the other side as “secret military information” and protect them accordingly, among other stipulations.
Japan will manage such information based on the Law on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has emphasized the significance of concluding the GSOMIA, saying, “Japan-South Korea cooperation has become more important because the North Korean threat is of a different level than before.” The South Korean Defense Ministry, for its part, has issued a statement saying, “Use of Japan’s intelligence capabilities will be beneficial for South Korea’s security.”
To make GSOMIA work effectively, it is essential for both governments to prepare concrete arrangements for implementation of the agreement and begin exchanging information as soon as possible.
Enforcement of the agreement will make it possible for Japan to obtain information on ballistic missile launches in the western part of North Korea as well as on North Korea’s internal situation collected from defectors to the South and other topics.
South Korea, on the other hand, will be able to obtain images of North Korea taken by Japan’s reconnaissance satellites, information on the movements of North Korean submarines being monitored by surveillance aircraft of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force, and other intelligence information.
Ramp up joint exercises
In 2012, the administration of then South Korean President Lee Myung Bak withdrew its bid to conclude GOSMIA just before it was scheduled to be signed, citing domestic opposition. The decision meant sharing of military intelligence between the two countries would continue to be limited to what was obtained via the United States.
The administration of Park Geun-hye seems to have decided to sign the accord due to an increasing sense of alarm as North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests and test-fired more than 20 ballistic missiles so far this year.
The United States also said that it “will continue to pursue efforts toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in close coordination” with Japan and South Korea. Once the three countries become capable of instantaneously exchanging high-quality information, it will undoubtedly deepen security cooperation among the three nations and bolster deterrence.
In addition to North Korea-related information, the Japanese side plans to seek information related to the rescue of Japanese nationals in South Korea and the shipment of supplies to U.S. forces, among other items, in case of any contingency on the Korean Peninsula.
It is also important for the Self-Defense Forces and the South Korean military to begin their joint exercises in earnest.
We hope Seoul cooperates in the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense, a cutting-edge U.S. missile defense system, in South Korea.
How a female friend of Park’s alleged intervention into national politics will impact the enforcement of the GSOMIA is a cause for concern. The opposition camp denounced the signing of the agreement, saying, “It’s not something that should be done by a president who has lost the people’s trust.” The opposition parties thus call for invalidating the accord. They aim to oust Park from the presidency by passing an impeachment motion against her in the National Assembly.
If South Korea scraps the GSOMIA, only North Korea will benefit.