Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe answers reporters' questions at his official residence in Tokyo, Aug 23, 2019. (YOSHITAKA SUGAWARA / KYODO NEWS VIA AP)
TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said South Korea's decision to cancel a deal to share military intelligence is damaging mutual trust, and he vowed Friday to work closely with the US for regional peace.
Abe also accused Seoul of not keeping past promises. The military agreement started in 2016.
"We will continue to closely coordinate with the US to ensure regional peace and prosperity, as well as Japan's security," he said, ahead of his departure for the Group of Seven summit of industrialized nations in France.
A Senior ROK presidential official said that "there is no longer any justification" for Seoul to maintain the deal because of Japan's claim that basic trust between the countries had been undermined
ROK said on Thursday it was ending the intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan, further straining ties between Seoul and Tokyo amid a dispute over ROK people pressed into forced labor during Japan's wartime occupation of Korea.
Senior ROK presidential official Kim Hyun-chong on Friday defended his government's decision. He told reporters that "there is no longer any justification" for Seoul to maintain the deal because of Japan's claim that basic trust between the countries had been undermined.
Kim accused Japan of having ignored ROK's repeated calls for dialogue and other conciliatory steps to resolve bitter trade and history disputes. He said Japan's such "breach of diplomatic etiquette" has undermined "our national pride."
ROK will try to bolster its own defense capability by introducing military satellites and other reconnaissance assets, Kim said.
He also said ROK will push to bolster its alliance with the United States.
ROK will also try to actively use a trilateral intelligence-sharing channel with the United States and Japan, Kim said. Before the 2016 bilateral deal was forged, Seoul and Tokyo used that three-way channel to exchange intelligence via the United States.
Noting that cooperation between Japan and ROK is "crucial" in view of DPRK's repeated missile tests, Japan's defense minister said Tokyo strongly urges Seoul "to make a wise decision"
Earlier Friday, Japanese Minister of Defense Takeshi Iwaya said ROK's decision was regrettable and showed it failed to appreciate the growing national security threat posed by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s missiles.
Iwaya told reporters that DPRK's repeated missile tests "threaten national security," and said cooperation between Japan and ROK, as well as with the US, is "crucial".
"We strongly urge them to make a wise decision," Iwaya said.
Ties between the East Asian neighbors were already at their lowest ebb in years before Seoul's decision to end the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA).
Under the GSOMIA, which had been due for automatic renewal on Saturday, the two countries shared information on the threat posed by DPRK's missile and nuclear programs.
The dispute between ROK and Japan has spilled over into trade, with Japan putting restrictions on exports of semiconductor materials to ROK and removing it from a list of nations given preferential trading terms.
The US sees both ROK and Japan as important allies in northern Asia. The Pentagon has expressed "strong concern and disappointment" in the collapse of the agreement.
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