Japan, South Korea discuss North Korea concerns, ‘collective self-defense’

Kyodo

Japanese and South Korean vice defense ministers agreed Wednesday to step up cooperation in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats and also discussed Tokyo’s drive to revise long-followed defense policies.

“It’s the first meeting in a while,” Vice Defense Minister Masanori Nishi said at the beginning of the meeting, which opened to the media. “I hope this will serve to restart a close dialogue.”

It was the first meeting between the vice defense ministers of the two Asian nations since November 2011.

The two met on the sidelines of three-day Asia-Pacific vice defense ministerial talks through Wednesday, and at a time when Japan-South Korea relations have soured over territorial and historical disputes.

South Korea’s vice defense minister, Baek Seung-joo, expressed concern over Tokyo’s push to embrace the “right to collective self-defense,” according to Yonhap News Agency.

The two sides largely agreed to cooperate in dealing with North Korea, but “differed on politically sensitive issues, including Tokyo’s attempt to expand its military right,” Yonhap said.

In Seoul, some South Korean government officials have made comments suggesting that they may accept an expanded role for the Self-Defense Forces, while others strongly oppose it as a shift aimed at Japan becoming a military power.

Nishi briefed Baek about a bill currently before the Diet authorizing the establishment of a U.S.-style national security council, and about the drive by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to gain public support for reinterpretating the Constitution as allowing Japan to engage in collective self-defense.

The 40-minute meeting also touched on a planned intelligence-sharing pact between Japan and South Korea, Yonhap said.