December 26, 2014 / 9:53 AM / 3 years ago

Japan says close to deal with South Korea and U.S. on North Korea defense

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan, the United States and South Korea are close to reaching a deal on sharing and safeguarding sensitive information on North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs, Japan’s Defence Ministry said on Friday.

A barbed wire fence decorated with South Korean national flags is pictured near the demilitarized zone which separates North and South Korea in Paju October 31, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

As Japan lies well within the range of North Korea’s mid-range missiles, acquiring military intelligence on North Korea in a timely manner is vital for its security.

“Ever since defense ministers of Japan, the United States and South Korea agreed on the importance of information sharing in May, discussion has taken place at various levels,” a Japanese Defence Ministry official told a media briefing.

“And now we are in the final stages toward signing.”

Under the framework, South Korea would pass relevant information to the United States, with which Seoul already has a legally-binding pact to share and safeguard intelligence called General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), and then the U.S. would pass the information onto Japan.

It would also work the other way around as the United States has signed a GSOMIA with Japan as well.

Some South Koreans have voiced concerns about signing a security pact with Japan, a one-time colonial ruler. Besides Japan’s annexation of Korean peninsula that ended in 1945, bilateral ties have been plagued by a prolonged territorial dispute over a group of tiny islets.

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Jeremy Laurence

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