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(LEAD) S. Korea-Japan military pact tentatively signed in April: officials

All Headlines 14:00 July 03, 2012

(ATTN: UPDATES with foreign ministry official correcting date of initialing the pact, quotes in first six paras; AMENDS headline)

SEOUL, July 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korea had already signed a provisional military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan in late April, but didn't report it to the National Assembly, Seoul officials confirmed Tuesday.

The tentative agreement on sharing delicate military intelligence was signed on April 23 in Tokyo between Army Brig. Gen. Shin Kyung-soo, the deputy chief of international policy at Seoul's defense ministry, and Keiichi Ono, the director of the Northeast Asia Division at Tokyo's foreign ministry, a South Korean foreign ministry official said.

South Korea and Japan "initialed the pact on April 23 at first and again initialed it on May 1 after revising some erroneous parts," the official said on the condition of anonymity.

The final draft of the pact was confirmed in the middle of last month, the official said.

The signing of the initial pact was done weeks before South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin had originally planned to visit Tokyo to formally ink the deal in May. Kim shelved his visit due to protests from opposition parties at the time.

Another government official said, however, that the government has no obligation to report the signing of an initial pact to the National Assembly.

"Initialing an agreement is made when working-level officials agree on a draft of the agreement," the official said, requesting anonymity.

"There is no obligation (for the government) to report the process of the working-level consultations to the National Assembly," the official said.

On Friday, South Korea postponed the signing of the intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, less than an hour before the two nations were scheduled to formally sign the pact in Tokyo, in an unprecedented diplomatic embarrassment for both nations.

The abrupt delay of the signing underscored how delicate the issue of military cooperation with Japan is in South Korea. Many Koreans still harbor deep resentment toward Japan because of its brutal colonial rule between 1910 and 1945.

President Lee Myung-bak scolded Monday his Cabinet for the mishandling of the pact with Japan, while Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan apologized to the nation for pursuing the pact without making enough efforts to win people's support for the agreement.

"I sincerely apologize to our people for failing to smoothly proceed with the planned signing of a military agreement with Japan," the foreign minister told reporters on Monday. "I humbly accept criticism that our ministry didn't make efforts to seek people's understanding and support for the pact."


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