SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea, the U.S. and Japan will sign their first-ever trilateral intelligence-sharing pact next week to better cope with North Korea's increasing nuclear and missile threats, Seoul officials said Friday.
The U.S. has separate, bilateral intelligence-sharing agreements with South Korea and Japan, both American allies which are hosts to tens of thousands of American troops.
But Seoul and Japan don't have such bilateral pacts amid long-running history disputes stemming from Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945. In 2012, the two almost forged their first-ever intelligence-sharing pact but its signing was scrapped at the last minute due to backlash in South Korea.
Under the trilateral pact, South Korea and Japan would share intelligence, only on North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, via the U.S., according to a statement from Seoul's Defense Ministry.
The pact would enable the three countries to swiftly respond to any North Korean provocation at a time when its threats are growing following its third nuclear test in February 2013, the statement said. The use of Japanese intelligence assets would boost surveillance on North Korea, it said.
South Korean officials have said the North is believed to have made progress in its goal of manufacturing nuclear warheads small and light enough to be placed on a missile capable of reaching the U.S., given that eight years have passed since its first bomb tests. North Korea conducted its first test in 2006 followed by another in 2009.
The formal signing of the pact by the South Korean vice defense minister and his U.S. and Japanese counterparts will take place Monday, according to South Korean defense officials.
The Korean Peninsula remains in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. In October, troops of the rival Koreas exchanged gunfire along their heavily fortified border several times though no causalities were reported.