The defense chiefs of South Korea and Japan met in Seoul Jan. 10, agreeing to work on two pacts aimed at boosting military cooperation. Seoul’s defense minister Kim Kwan-jin and his Japanese counterpart Toshimi Kitazawa pledged to seek “future-oriented” military relations. The talks came after a recent high-profile visit to Seoul by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, who called for greater cooperation with Tokyo and Washington in the wake of North Korea’s Nov. 23 attack on a border island. Following his talks with South Korean brass last month, Mullen urged “much more trilateral cooperation” in response to security challenges from Pyongyang, and suggested unprecedented three-way military drills.
After the meeting with Kitazawa, Seoul’s defense ministry issued a statement saying: “The ministers agreed that a series of provocative acts by North Korea (DPRK), including its shelling attack on Yeonpyeong Island and disclosure of a uranium enrichment facility, severely hamper peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia and agreed to closely cooperate on the issue.”
The statement pledged action on the two pending accords, the “General Security of Military Information Agreement” and the “Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement,” which would open a new era of cooperation between the two nations. However, Korea’s JoongAng Daily wrote: “But Seoul wants to go slower than Tokyo to avoid public opinion backlash.” (Xinhua, Jan. 10; JoongAng Daily, Jan. 5)
The US State Department meanwhile said the DPRK’s offer to hold talks with Seoul falls short of what is needed to demonstrate that it is serious about seeking better relations. State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said North Korea has entered a “charm stage,” following a “provocative stage” last year that included an artillery attack on the border island that killed four people. (AP, Jan. 10)