North Korea threat sees Seoul, Japan pledge to share more intelligence
Seoul officials say Japanese satellites needed to monitor North's nuclear programs
South Korea's Cabinet on Tuesday approved an intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan to better deal with threats from North Korea, officials said.
The approval came amid strong objections from South Korean opposition lawmakers, who accuse the government of trying to use the agreement as a way to divert attention from a growing political scandal involving President Park Geun-hye.
An intelligence-sharing deal with Japan is a divisive issue in South Korea, where many people still harbor strong resentment against Japan's brutal 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
In 2012, Seoul and Tokyo nearly signed the pact but South Korea backed off at the last minute following a public backlash.
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Seoul officials say information from Japanese satellites and other high-tech systems are necessary to thoroughly monitor developments on North Korea's nuclear and missile programs. South Korea has similar intelligence-sharing pacts with more than 30 countries, according to South Korean media.
The pact is to take effect after Park endorses the agreement and her Defense Minister Han Min Koo and Japan's ambassador in South Korea formally sign it later this week.
Main opposition parties in South Korea have threatened to push for a no-confidence motion on Han.
Worries about North Korea's weapons programs have grown since September when the country carried out its fifth nuclear test, and its most powerful to date.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency issued a commentary on Tuesday accusing Washington of pushing its two Asian allies to sign the intelligence deal to bolster its anti-Pyongyang, regional hegemony.
Pact a 'grave threat': North Korea
The pact "will further the danger of a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula and poses a grave threat to peace and security in northeast Asia and the world," the commentary said.
North Korea also issues such rhetoric when Washington and Seoul stage military drills or move to bolster their military co-operation.
Main opposition parties in South Korea have threatened to impeach Park over the scandal. On Sunday, prosecutors directly linked Park to alleged misdeeds by her shadowy confidante charged with pressuring companies to donate money to foundations controlled by her.
The Korean Peninsula was divided into a U.S.-backed South Korea and a Soviet-supported, socialist North Korea at the end of the Japanese occupation. The two Koreas fought a three-year war in the early 1950s that ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.