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Politics

Seoul accepts Japan's security laws with reservations

SEOUL -- South Korea has mixed feelings about Japan's new security legislation, seeing the laws as necessary given its alliance with the U.S. and tensions with North Korea while demanding transparency on fears of a Japanese military buildup.

     Broader logistical support for U.S. forces and other allies near Japan is a key part of the legislation, which took effect Tuesday. Many South Korean government sources and security experts argue that the laws will help protect the country from the threat posed by its northern neighbor.

     But much within the laws is seen as unclear, such as what sort of support would be provided and how Japan's Self-Defense Forces would respond to an attack on their homeland. And some worry that the SDF will only act within the framework of the U.S.-Japan security alliance.

     When the bills were passed, South Korea's foreign ministry said that Japan should continue to maintain the spirit of its pacifist constitution and promote regional peace and security in a transparent manner.

     South Korea's time under Japanese colonial rule has left it leery of the SDF. Even if the public understands rationally that support from Japan would reduce damage to the country in an emergency, public sentiment is against accepting this help, a security expert said. This sentiment is also why Seoul has said repeatedly that it will not let Japan engage in collective self-defense on the Korean Peninsula except by its request or with its consent.

     Japan and South Korea remain at odds on SDF activity in North Korea. Tokyo does not consider Seoul's approval necessary, unlike South Korea, whose constitution designates North Korea a part of its territory. The fact that the U.S. holds operational control over the South Korean military in wartime is also fueling anxiety over the new laws. Pyongyang's nuclear tests and long-range ballistic missile launches have created an urgent need for security dialogue between Tokyo and Seoul.

     Meanwhile, North Korea has called the Japanese legislation an evil measure intended to pave the way for invasion of other countries.

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