Unhinged North Korean behavior continues to drive South Korea and Japan together—at a time when it is very much in China’s interest to pull them apart. Now Seoul and Tokyo are poised to share intelligence directly for the first time, via the U.S. The FT reports:
South Korea, the US and Japan will sign a trilateral intelligence-sharing agreement on Monday to better cope with North Korea’s increasing military threats, Seoul’s defence ministry said on Friday. […]Under the agreement, Seoul and Tokyo will share intelligence via Washington only on Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes. South Korean officials expect to gain access to Japanese intelligence assets to boost its surveillance of the North. […]South Korea and Japan, key American allies in Asia, each have separate bilateral intelligence-sharing agreements with the US. Tens of thousands of American troops are stationed in each country.
But there is no bilateral pact between Seoul and Tokyo, with relations strained because of long-running historical and territorial disputes.
There’s been growing talk in China about the need to dump the Norks; this intel sharing deal that creates new ties between Seoul and Tokyo will be one more piece of evidence cited by those in China who think the time has come to cut the Kim dynasty loose.Meanwhile, it’s a substantial success in U.S. cat-herding efforts in East Asia and shows once again that the core calculation driving Abe’s assertive and sometimes abrasive foreign policy—that the combination of concern about China and about North Korea makes Japanese nationalism more acceptable in the region—is correct.