SEOUL (Kyodo) Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and South Korean counterpart Kim Kwan Jin agreed Monday to begin discussions toward signing pacts to boost cooperation between the military forces of Japan and the Republic of Korea.

Their meeting in Seoul came as the two countries are looking for specific ways to enhance defense cooperation in the wake of North Korea’s fatal artillery attack on South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island in November.

Kitazawa told reporters afterward that they agreed to start discussing a pact calling for mutual supply provision between Self-Defense Force troops and the ROK military, as well as another pact to prevent leaks of military information.

The defense minister was referring to an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement that would stipulate reciprocal provision of supplies, such as food, water and fuel, plus services between their forces when conducting joint activities. Details of operations would be defined by each country’s domestic laws.

Japan has reached similar accords with the United States and Australia, while South Korea has one in place with the U.S. The agreements Japan and South Korea reached with the U.S. cover contingencies on the Korean Peninsula.

The other accord, a General Security of Military Information Agreement, would prevent information leakage when sharing such military data as technology and coding information. Japan has such an accord in place with the U.S.

Kitazawa and Kim also agreed to boost cooperation in security and defense matters and to hold regular talks at the ministerial and vice ministerial levels once a year in Japan and South Korea.

North lauds Maehara

PYONGYANG / BEIJING (Kyodo) North Korea praised Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara’s willingness to resume bilateral talks, according to a commentary posted Monday on the website of the official Korean Central News Agency.

The commentary, dated Saturday, said comments Maehara made in Tokyo on Jan. 4 were “a positive step” in bilateral ties.

Maehara said dialogue with North Korea should be one of Japan’s major diplomatic goals for this year, and that it is important to create an environment for holding talks on its past abductions of Japanese as well as its missile and nuclear programs.

North Korea has rarely given positive assessments of comments by Japanese officials since the Democratic Party of Japan came to power in 2009.

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