Japan says close to deal with S Korea and US on N Korea defence

Japan says close to deal with S Korea and US on N Korea defence
This file picture taken on August 20, 2013 shows Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces helicopters flying over armourd vehicles during an annual live fire exercise at the Higashi-Fuji firing range in Gotemba, at the foot of Mt. Fuji in Shizuoka prefecture.

TOKYO - Japan, the United States and South Korea are close to reaching a deal on sharing and safeguarding sensitive information on North Korea's missile and nuclear programmes, Japan's Defence Ministry said on Friday.

As Japan lies well within the range of North Korea's mid-range missiles, acquiring military intelligence on North Korea in a timely manner is vital for its security.

"Ever since defence ministers of Japan, the United States and South Korea agreed on the importance of information sharing in May, discussion has taken place at various levels," a Japanese Defence Ministry official told a media briefing.

"And now we are in the final stages toward signing."

Under the framework, South Korea would pass relevant information to the United States, with which Seoul already has a legally-binding pact to share and safeguard intelligence called General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), and then the US would pass the information onto Japan.

It would also work the other way around as the United States has signed a GSOMIA with Japan as well.

Some South Koreans have voiced concerns about signing a security pact with Japan, a one-time colonial ruler.

Besides Japan's annexation of Korean peninsula that ended in 1945, bilateral ties have been plagued by a prolonged territorial dispute over a group of tiny islets.

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