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South Korea election

South Korean presidential hopeful looks to improve ties with Japan

Ex-prosecutor general would keep Seoul in intelligence-sharing deal

Former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl's platform positions Japan as a neighbor with shared values. (Yonhap via Reuters)

SEOUL -- South Korean presidential candidate Yoon Seok-youl on Wednesday promised a better relationship with Japan, stressing the importance of a bilateral intelligence-sharing agreement whose future has been uncertain under the current administration.

The former prosecutor general, running in the March 2022 election under the banner of the conservative opposition People Power Party, released a foreign policy and security platform that calls for building a "future-oriented relationship" with Japan under a 1998 joint declaration. He seeks a summit to set out a new vision for "a future of shared prosperity."

Yoon's platform positions Japan as a neighbor that shares the values of liberal democracy and a market economy, while stating that South Korea will maintain a "dignified position" on territorial issues and historical disputes that have soured relations between the two countries.

This relatively friendly stance stands out in a political landscape where candidates typically talk tough on Tokyo.

Asked by reporters about the General Security of Military Information Agreement, Yoon called it "very important," as South Korea "needs to be active in sharing intelligence for our security." The deal is intended to guard against leaks when sharing sensitive information.

President Moon Jae-in's administration notified Japan in 2019 that it would scrap the agreement but suspended the decision right before the deadline under U.S. pressure. Moon's government maintains that it can go through with the exit at any time.

Yoon looks to join working groups with the security grouping known as the Quad -- consisting of the U.S., Japan, India and Australia -- and consider participating officially based on the results.

On North Korea, Yoon pledged to set up a permanent North-South-U.S. liaison office in the truce village of Panmunjom inside the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas. He aims to reopen dialogue on denuclearization and improve communication between Seoul and Pyongyang.

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