• Kyodo

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South Korea has decided to restart talks with Japan on signing a bilateral agreement on sharing sensitive military information, a South Korean Defense Ministry official said Thursday.

The official said the country expects it to be concluded before long.

The working-level talks for concluding a General Security of Military Information Agreement “will not take long,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Such an accord would provide Tokyo and Seoul with a bilateral channel for exchanging sensitive information on military affairs and prevent it from falling into the hands of a third country.

Later Thursday, South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuck said South Korean and Japanese officials from related government offices held “several rounds of talks” on the issue after North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test on Sept. 9.

“In addition to an agreement on sharing military information among South Korea, the U.S. and Japan, a common belief has been formed on the need to strengthen a cooperative system between South Korea and Japan in sharing military information in order to better cope with North Korea’s escalating nuclear and missile threats,” Cho said during a press briefing.

Asked whether South Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam and his Japanese counterpart Shinsuke Sugiyama discussed the issue at a meeting held in Tokyo on Thursday, Cho said, “The basic position of each side was exchanged at the meeting.”

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that Japan will enter into the negotiations after consulting with South Korea, aiming for an early conclusion of the agreement.

A South Korean Defense Ministry official said that the government began earnestly considering a resumption of negotiations after North Korea’s fifth nuclear test.

“Timely and accurate information acquisition and utilization means everything, and deepening and broadening the information cooperation system with Japan will dovetail with South Korea’s security interests,” the spokesman said.

Yonhap News Agency quoted an unnamed South Korean government official as saying, “Information-sharing among South Korea, the United States and Japan can’t be further delayed after North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats have become real ones.”

In 2012, Tokyo and Seoul came close to agreeing on a similar bilateral deal, but it was aborted at the 11th hour due to opposition in South Korea stemming from Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula before and during World War II.

South Korea’s decision to launch talks on the matter was made at the initiative of the Japanese side, Yonhap said.

In 2014, South Korea, Japan and the U.S. signed a memorandum of understanding on the sharing and safeguarding of classified information about North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

The memorandum enables the defense ministries of Japan and South Korea to share information through the U.S. Department of Defense in the absence of a formal intelligence-sharing accord between the two Asian nations.

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