MAJOR: Tokyo, Seoul Dissolve Intelligence Sharing Deal Week Before Expiry

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TOKYO/SEOUL – The defense ministers of Japan and South Korea failed to agree to extend the bilateral intelligence-sharing pact on Sunday at their first meeting since October 2018, but reaffirmed their commitment to cooperation with the US on Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear program, the Kyodo news agency reported.

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The talks were held on the margins of a regional security meeting in Bangkok. At the start of the talks, Japanese Defence Minister Taro Kono urged Seoul to revise the decision to exit the pact, which is due to expire in a week, Japan’s media outlet specified.

His South Korean counterpart, Jeong Kyeong-doo, in turn, told reporters after the talks that the refusal to renew the treaty had followed Japan’s decision to slap export restrictions on materials vital to Seoul’s high-tech industries. The minister noted that he called for a “diplomatic solution”.

Tensions between Seoul and Tokyo deepened during the summer over the issue of compensation for the use of Korean citizens for forced labor by Japan during World War II. The rift has since expanded to mutual trade restrictions and even defense cooperation, with South Korea is refusing to extend the intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan since August.

Earlier in the week, US Defenсe Secretary Mark Esper warned the allies that the looming termination of the intelligence-sharing pact would only “play into the hands of Beijing and Pyongyang”, urging them to resolve their differences and save the deal.

Earlier, in late October, political leaders of Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and his South Korean counterpart, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon vowed to mend ties amid the bitter feud over the troubled history between the two countries and cancel trade restrictions that have dragged bilateral relations to their worst in decades.

However, the initially promising initiative never took off, as neither the issues regarding the compensation for the use of Korean citizens for forced labor by Japan during World War II, nor the intelligence-sharing agreement extension has been reloved, while trade restrictions are still in place.

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