In an attempt to renew ties, Seoul moves to ‘normalise’ military pact with Tokyo

South Korea will fully implement a key military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, a Defence Ministry official told AFP on Saturday, as the two countries move to thaw long-frozen relations and renew diplomacy to counter Pyongyang.

At a fence-mending summit on Thursday, the neighbours agreed to turn the page on a bitter dispute over Japan’s use of war-time forced labour.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, who has been keen to end the spat and present a united front against the nuclear-armed North, had flown to Japan to meet Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, the first such summit in 12 years.

Military agreement

According to a pool report, Mr. Yoon told Mr. Kishida he wanted a “complete normalisation” of a 2016 military agreement called the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which enables the two U.S. allies to share military secrets, particularly over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile capacity.

Following the summit, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry was asked “to proceed with the needed measures to normalise the agreement.”.

Seoul had threatened to scrap GSOMIA in 2019 as relations with Tokyo soured over trade disputes and a historical row stemming from Japan’s 35-year colonial rule over the peninsula. In response, an alarmed U.S. said that calling off the pact would only benefit North Korea and China.

Hours before it was set to expire, South Korea agreed to extend GSOMIA “conditionally”, but warned it could be “terminated” at any moment.

Confronted with Pyongyang’s growing aggression and flurry of missile tests, the neighbours have increasingly sought to bury the hatchet.