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(LEAD) intel-sharing deal intended to counter threats from China, N.K.

All Headlines 14:43 December 07, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS more remarks in last 4 paras)

TOKYO, Dec. 7 (Yonhap) -- A recent intelligence-sharing deal that Japan reached with South Korea is a "necessary" step to guarantee its national security in the face of threats from China and North Korea, a former Japanese envoy to Seoul has said.

Last month, South Korea and Japan signed the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) aimed at expanding intelligence sharing between the two neighbors and better countering the threat, in particular, from North Korea.

The deal, however, sparked strong opposition from some politicians and civic groups in South Korea as they argued that Japan is working to expand its military power and overseas role without sincerely apologizing for its wartime atrocities decades ago.

During a recent interview with the foreign ministry's press corps in Tokyo, Masatoshi Muto, who served as Japan's ambassador to South Korea from 2010 to 2012, said that the argument is "wrong" and that the deal is only intended to strengthen its national security from outside threats.

"It is necessary to guarantee (our) national security against China and North Korea," he said. "What benefit can we have from increasing our military power and being at odds with South Korea?

"As North Korea declared its possession of nuclear weapons, while conducting missile tests repeatedly, Japan has no choice but to be proactive in strengthening its national defense. This is not intended to target South Korea."

Muto emphasized the importance of cooperation with the U.S., Australia, India and other Asian countries to "prevent China from engaging in any dominating military action."

"Working together with the countries that share the same values (with us) will be a foundation for our national security going forward," he said.

As for a deal reached between the two countries on the wartime sexual enslavement of Korean women, the former ambassador called it the "last chance" to put an end to the decades-long diplomatic dispute.

In December last year, South Korea and Japan signed the deal in which Tokyo apologized for the wartime atrocity and injected 1 billion yen (US$9.8 million) into a South Korean foundation devoted to supporting the victims.

A group of the surviving victims and civic groups continue to resist the deal, saying that Tokyo's apology is not sincere enough and that the deal was reached against their will.

"There is no other way but to carry out what was agreed upon," he said. "I believe that the deal was the last chance for us to resolve this matter."


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