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(LEAD) S. Korea, Japan to sign first military accord soon: official

All Headlines 11:56 June 27, 2012

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with senior foreign ministry official's remarks, details, background; AMENDS headline)

SEOUL, June 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and Japan will sign a non-combat military pact as early as this week, a Seoul official said Wednesday, in what would be the first military accord between the historical rivals since Tokyo's brutal occupation of Korea in the early 20th century.

With the approval by South Korea's Cabinet on Tuesday of the accord on sharing military intelligence, Seoul completed its domestic procedures to forge the accord and Tokyo is expected to complete its own procedures this week, the senior official at Seoul's foreign ministry said.

"As soon as Japan's Cabinet endorses the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), possibly within this week, we will formally signed the agreement with Japan," the official said on the condition of anonymity.

Since early 2011, Seoul and Tokyo have been in talks to forge two military pacts on military intelligence and logistics.

South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin had planned to visit Japan last month to sign one of the pacts, the GSOMIA, but shelved the plan due to some territorial and other unresolved issues that have arisen from their shared past. Japan ruled the Korean Peninsula as a colony from 1910-45.

Military cooperation is one sensitive area that needs to be addressed in Seoul-Tokyo relations, but the two nations have lately agreed on the need to expand cooperation in the defense sector in the face of increasing military threats from North Korea, especially after the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

South Korea "needs the pact on sharing military intelligence with Japan because we have to use Japan's intelligence assets, including its spy satellites and high-end surveillance aircrafts," the ministry official said.

"It is an undeniable fact that the existence of Japan is important for our national security," he said, citing the presence of U.S. forces in Japan.

"In case of contingency on the Korean Peninsula, the U.S. Forces Japan will become a rear base for the U.S. Forces Korea," the official said.

About 28,500 U.S. troops, mostly ground soldiers, are stationed in South Korea and more than 35,000 U.S. troops, mainly consisting of navy, air force and marines, are stationed in Japan.

The official said the military pact with Japan is also taking aim at the rise of China.

"To cope with the rise of China, the military intelligence pact with Japan is needed to boost our intelligence capability," the official said.

The pact does not need parliamentary approval from the two nations, he said.

South Korea currently has similar military deals with 24 countries, including the U.S., Canada, Britain, Australia and Russia.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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