The latest North Korea’s nuclear test set off alarm bells in Japan and South Korea. South Korea Japan ties imporved as both nations had come close to each other against this move.
North Korea’s latest nuclear detonation could strengthen that reconciliation, say military officials and defence experts, as the two countries unite against a common threat. That, in turn, could lead to military cooperation instead of the frosty distance they have maintained, even though they are USA’s closest allies in the region.
Earlier, Japan and South Korea reached a landmark agreement last month to resolve the issue of “comfort women” forced to work in Japan’s wartime military brothels, which had been an emotive impediment to better ties.
Japan apologised and promised about one billion yen ($8.47 million) to help surviving women who were coerced into prostitution.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye spoke by phone to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. They discussed the need for close cooperation with each other, as well as with the United States, China and Russia.
Senior defence officials from South Korea, Japan and the United States held a video conference and agreed to continue to cooperate closely and share information on North Korea’s nuclear threat.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter also spoke by phone to Japanese Defence Minister Gen Nakatani and “agreed that trilateral cooperation with the Republic of Korea is critical to deterrence and maintaining peace and security in Northeast Asia and beyond.”
The two reiterated their commitment to continuing close trilateral cooperation and information sharing.
The distance between South Korea and Japan has worried Washington as it increasingly relies on its Asian allies to work together to guarantee security in the region amid China’s growing military might.
Past strains have prevented Japan and South Korea from agreeing to share sensitive military information.
An attempt to institutionalise security cooperation through the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) in 2012 failed after significant domestic opposition in South Korea.
In a bid to resolve the impasse, Washington agreed last year to act as a go-between to allow Seoul and Tokyo to swap intelligence.
In December 2014, Seoul said it would send the Lockheed Martin F-35 fleet it has ordered to Australia for maintenance, well beyond their operating range, rather than to a regional maintenance hub for the stealth fighter to be set up in Japan.
Soth Korea has criticized Japanese school textbooks that it says distort history and downplay Japan’s wartime and colonial atrocities and the two countries are at odds over territorial issues.
The “comfort women” issue remains contentious, despite the recent agreement.