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Han Min-koo, left, South Korea's defense minister, shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart, Tomomi Inada, in Singapore on June 3. (Photo by Nozomu Ogawa)
Politics

Japan, South Korea to keep sharing military intelligence

Seoul to shelve 'comfort women' issue to focus on Pyongyang threat

SINGAPORE -- Tomomi Inada met with Han Min-koo here on Saturday in the first Japan-South Korea ministerial meeting since Moon Jae-in became South Korea's president last month.

After the defense chiefs met, Japan's Inada said both agreed to keep in place a pact that allows the countries to share defense information.

The General Security of Military Information Agreement is automatically extended every year. But while he was campaigning, Moon expressed reservations about it, saying he would decide whether to extend the agreement after examining its effects.

Now as president, Moon is expected to prioritize cooperation with Japan in the face of North Korea ramping up its missile and nuclear programs.

During the meeting, Inada proposed that the two defense ministers visit each other's country. Gen Nakatani was the last Japanese defense minister to visit South Korea. He did so in 2015. No South Korean defense minister has visited Japan since 2009.

In response, Han said it is a pity that his country's defense ministers have been unable to visit Japan, though there have been requests.

When asked if an agreement between the two countries regarding the "comfort women" issue was discussed, Inada skirted the question by telling reporters that despite many problems, the two countries agreed to that their relations would be future-oriented.

Moon has been skeptical toward the comfort women agreement, which was signed by his disgraced predecessor, but now wants to take Japan relations down separate tracks -- one that would consider the two nations' shared histories and another that would have both countries cooperating on security matters.

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