South Korea on Friday suddenly put off signing an accord with former colonial ruler Japan that would have authorized the exchange of intelligence related to North Korea's weapons of mass destruction efforts, the New York Times reported (see GSN, June 27).
The South is to hold a parliamentary session on the matter on Monday, which the Foreign Ministry said it would use to make its case for approval of the military intelligence pact. The deal has been criticized for being developed too quickly without enough time for public discussion. The pact has touched on sensitive public feelings related to Japan's oppressive occupation of the Korean Peninsula in the early 20th century.
"We have decided to push for the signing after consultations with the National Assembly," the Foreign Ministry said in provided remarks.
In addition to permitting the two-way exchange of classified military information on North Korea, the accord would also allow for the sharing of data related to China's increasing military capabilities.
Friday's announcement of a postponement on the same day the pact was due to be signed took many sectors by surprise, including the Japanese government (Choe Sang-Hun, New York Times, June 29).
Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Masaru Sato said his government was "disappointed" by the abrupt turn-of-events, the Washington Post reported.
"Our sense is, the agreement should have been signed today," Sato said (Chico Harlan, Washington Post, June 29).
Former South Korean Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan, who is a leader of the left-leaning opposition Democratic United Party, accused Seoul of "trying to hand deliver this country's classified military intelligence" to the Japanese military, Reuters reported (Jack Kim, Reuters, June 29).
The South Korean government put off for the first time in May signing the agreement with Japan. Seoul also put off finalizing a separate bilateral deal that would authorize military logistical collaboration, except on weaponry, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, May 8;Park Chan-Kyong, Agence France-Presse/Google News, June 29).
Meanwhile, a diplomatic insider in Washington said the Obama administration assesses it is too soon to attempt to hold new two-way discussions with North Korea on its nuclear weapons program, the Yonhap News Agency reported.
"There is consensus that it's not the right time yet," the anonymous source stated, seemingly shutting the door on any potential bilateral talks at next month's Association of Southeast Asian Nations conference in Cambodia; both the U.S. and North Korean foreign policy chiefs are anticipated to be at the meeting.
Washington has been leery of new diplomatic engagement with Pyongyang since the North's failed April effort to fire a long-range rocket into space.
The United States opposed the rocket launch as both a breach of a February bilateral accord to rollback Pyongyang's nuclear weapons development and as a violation of U.N. Security Council rules that prohibit North Korean usage of ballistic missile technology (Lee Chi-dong, Yonhap News Agency, June 28).