South Korea and Japan postpone the signing of a military agreement

South Korean marines on board
an US helicopter during a joint
exercise. Photo: Ministry of
National Defense, Korea)

South Korea postponed last week at the last minute the signing of a major military agreement with Japan. Watchdog group Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice, focal point of Social Watch in the Republic of Korea, said it would help Japan's rearmament and pave the way for its troops to set foot on the peninsula, reported AFP news agency and several media.

The information-sharing pact would have been their first military agreement since the end of Japan's brutal 1910-45 colonial rule over Korea. It would have enabled the two sides, both of whom are close US allies, to swap intelligence about North Korea's missile and nuclear programmes and other defence issues, according to AFP.

“The signing of the Korea-Japan military treaty is a dangerous act that legitimizes the Self-Defense Forces’ military activity and will incite the resurrection of militarism,” warned the Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice in a critical statement.

Fifteen civic groups, including Solidarity for Peace and Reunification of Korea, held a press conference stating, “The background to Korean-Japanese military cooperation is the US’s strategy to achieve dominance in the Asia-Pacific region. This has combined with Japan‘s militaristic ambitions and the Lee Myung-bak government’s absorption in the Korea-US alliance and policy of antagonism toward North Korea, leading to the railroading of the Korea-Japan military treaty,” reported The Hankyoreh daily newspaper-

“It is highly likely that this will be followed by a treaty between Korea and Japan on the mutual provision of goods and services, then a joint statement on security. A military alliance between Korea and Japan and a three-way military alliance between Korea, the US and Japan, could then follow. This would create a new Cold War order in Northeast Asian politics,” regretted the civic organizations.

Many older Koreans have bitter memories of Japan's rule and military cooperation is a sensitive issue. Both the ruling and opposition parties in Seoul called for a delay, saying details have been kept secret, reads a story issued by AFP.

In an announcement less than one hour before the deal was to be signed in Tokyo last Friday, the South Korean foreign ministry said the government would consult legislators before going ahead.

Japan's chief cabinet secretary Osamu Fujimura, said it was "disappointing" that Seoul postponed the signing "due to internal affairs of South Korea," reported AFP. It was the second time Seoul had postponed the deal.

Citing lingering anti-Japanese hostility, South Korea last month suspended the signing of the agreement, and of another military accord on sharing logistics and cooperation in peacekeeping.

The impending agreement had sparked angry reaction from the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) and activists.

Historical disputes still mar the two countries' relationship despite their close economic relations.

They wrangle over ownership of rocky islets in the Sea of Japan (East Sea), and Tokyo has rejected talks on compensating Korean women used by Japan as military sex slaves during World War II.

Yonsei University professor Kim Sang-Joon described the incident as an "apparent diplomatic gaffe" but said both countries would try to mend ties despite controversy over the past. It would not be seriously damaging to the government of President Lee Myung-Bak, Kim told AFP.

AFP (via Space Daily):
The Hankyoreh: