The United States, Japan and South Korea have agreed to sign an unprecedented trilateral agreement on intelligence-sharing to counter North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, officials in Seoul announced Friday.
According to the deal, which will be signed on Dec. 29, South Korea and Japan will share intelligence on North Korea's nuclear and missile threats with the U.S. acting as an intermediary. While the U.S. has separate bilateral intelligence-sharing agreements with both South Korea and Japan, Seoul and Tokyo don't have such bilateral pacts with each other amid longtime disputes between the two countries, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
“This will be effective in deterring provocation from North Korea, and we hope it will help the three nations respond swiftly to the North's nuclear and missile threats,” a South Korean defense ministry spokesman told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
According to South Korean officials, the North has made significant progress in its goal to manufacture new nuclear weapons, which can be placed in missiles capable of reaching the U.S. Pyongyang, which tested its first nuclear bomb in 2006, conducted its second test in 2009. The threats of North Korean nuclear weapons are growing, following its third nuclear test, which was conducted in February 2013, the officials said.
The latest trilateral deal comes at a time when concerns over North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities have intensified. The country recently threatened the U.S. and South Korea with a nuclear strike over a United Nations resolution to address Pyongyang’s human rights abuses as well as a massive cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment’s systems last month, which according to the FBI, was supported by North Korea.
In 2012, both Seoul and Tokyo came close to signing their first-ever intelligence-sharing pact, but negotiations fell apart at the last minute due to a territorial row over disputed islands in the Sea of Japan, AFP reported.
The formal signing of the trilateral pact by the South Korean vice defense minister, and his U.S. and Japanese counterparts, will take place Monday, according to South Korean defense officials.