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(LEAD) S. Korea spurns Japan's suggestion for military intelligence pact: Seoul

All News 18:55 June 04, 2016

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES throughout with more info)

SINGAPORE, June 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korea turned down Japan's suggestion to forge a controversial military intelligence sharing pact on Saturday during the countries' defense ministerial talks held in Singapore, Seoul's defense ministry said.

"Defense Minister Gen Natakani briefly mentioned the importance of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA)," the Ministry of National Defense said after the meeting between Defense Minister Han Min-koo and the Japanese counterpart held on the occasion of the Asia Security Summit, or Shangri-La Dialogue.

In a virtual rejection of the suggestion, Han said "Paving the way to lay the foundation for the GSOMIA is (more) important," adding that more mutual efforts are needed for a signing to take place, according to the ministry.

The ministers' exchange offered a glimpse into still uncomfortable relations that can be traced back to Japan's colonization of the Korean Peninsula in the early half of the 20th century.

The neighbors had attempted to sign the GSOMIA in 2012, but South Korea backtracked amid widespread public criticism of the sensitive information sharing pact with its former colonial ruler.

Still, Han and Nakatani did reach an agreement on augmenting their military hotline in a bid to intensify joint cooperation against North Korea's worsening nuclear and missile threats, the ministry said.

Currently, South Korea and Japan maintains a director-level hotline set up in 1999 between their defense ministries.

During the talks, Han and Nakatani also called for greater collaboration between South Korea and Japan as well as in the trilateral framework involving the United States to combat North Korean threats, the ministry said. "They reached a shared understanding that thorough implementation of anti-North Korea sanctions is important in order to achieve the denuclearization of North Korea."

Han said he will try to visit Japan sometime this year after Nakatani extended an invitation, the ministry also said.

The bilateral meeting also produced general agreements on joint anti-piracy operations, cross-border visits of military aircraft as well as observing opportunities for each others' military exercises.

pbr@yna.co.kr
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