SEOUL -- South Korea's public reactions to the government's decision to pull out of an intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan are mixed.
Liberal media outlets published positive reactions to the move, while their conservative counterparts conveyed concern over creating a fracture in a three-way security alliance that also includes the U.S. These conservative bastions said President Moon Jae-in's liberal government used the issue for domestic political gain.
On Thursday night, after a National Security Council meeting, Moon's government announced that it had decided to terminate the intelligence-sharing agreement, which otherwise would have been renewed on Saturday. The decision further broadens a dispute with Japan over wartime issues that Tokyo earlier this summer escalated into a trade fight.
"We are expecting Japan to return to dialogue and cooperation, in respect to South Korea," Moon's Democratic Party of Korea said in a statement on Thursday. It also called for Japan's Shinzo "Abe administration to remove the economic retaliation."
In July, Japan tightened controls on exports to South Korea for key chemicals used in the production of semiconductor products, citing concerns over national security, but the move was viewed as a response to a South Korean Supreme Court ruling last October that allowed wartime laborers to seize the assets of Japanese companies.
After the decision to pull out of the intelligence-sharing pact, an executive of the Democratic Party of Korea was quoted as saying, "We cannot allow the Moon government to kneel down to Japan."
The Hankyoreh, a major liberal newspaper, called the move "a strong warning to Japan" and said "the Abe government paid the consequence" for its export restrictions. Another liberal outlet, the Kyunghyang Shinmun, wrote about the possibility of the three-way security alliance fraying. It blamed Japan for the nixing of the pact, saying it was Tokyo's responsibility to compromise on the trade issue.
The conservative opposition Liberty Korea Party criticized the decision. "Moon's government declared to the world that he is an amateur who needs to learn the basics of security."
The Chosun Ilbo, the country's major conservative newspaper, stressed that South Korea relies on information from a Japanese satellite and a patrol plane operated by the country's Self-Defense Forces that track North Korean submarine and missile movements.
"Pulling out of the agreement signals an end to security ties between Japan, the U.S. and South Korea," the paper also said. "North Korea, China and Russia will shout for joy."
The JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported that "it is perfectly obvious to see that relations between Japan and South Korea will fall into a bottomless pit."
Some conservatives say the Moon administration decided to withdraw from the pact as a diversionary tactic. They point out that Moon has been dealing with scandals related to his nomination of Cho Kuk as justice minister.