National / Politics

Tokyo keen to play down impact of Seoul's military information-sharing agreement exit

JIJI

Japan’s response to Saturday’s North Korean missile launches seems to reflect its eagerness to play down the impact of South Korea’s decision to exit their military information-sharing agreement, known as GSOMIA.

Unlike in past cases of North Korea’s firing of projectiles, Tokyo was quicker to release information on the latest launches than South Korea, with its initial announcement more detailed than that from Seoul.

“We did it intentionally to demonstrate Japan’s ability,” a Self-Defense Forces source said.

Around 6:54 a.m., the Japan Coast Guard released information that North Korea apparently fired a ballistic missile, 10 minutes after Pyongyang’s first shot.

The release was more than 40 minutes earlier than the South Korean military’s initial announcement and the country’s media reports.

Shortly after 7 a.m., Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and two deputy chief Cabinet secretaries, Kotaro Nogami and Kazuhiro Sugita, arrived at the Prime Minister’s Office to discuss the matter.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya called a meeting of senior officials at his ministry to gather and analyze information.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, on a visit to France, issued instructions to government staff in Tokyo to provide accurate information to the public promptly, ensure the safety of airplanes and ships and prepare for contingencies.

The Foreign Ministry made a strong protest to North Korea, claiming that the country is prohibited from firing any ballistic missiles under U.N. Security Council resolutions.

South Korea’s decision Thursday to scrap GSOMIA, or the General Security of Military Information Agreement, caused “no impact” on Tokyo’s operations to deal with the latest North Korean launches, a senior Japanese official insisted.

However, Toshihiro Nikai, secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said the government should press South Korea to “normalize” the bilateral relationship.

“We can’t help but worry if the termination of the agreement has sent a wrong message to North Korea,” Nikai said.

Speaking to reporters, Iwaya admitted that North Korea seems to have taken advantage of the current situation surrounding Japan and South Korea through the latest launches.

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