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[Editorial] Roh Administration Excluded From Intelligence Sharing on North Korea

[Editorial] Roh Administration Excluded From Intelligence Sharing on North Korea

Posted May. 25, 2005 03:37,   


It has become clear on a remark from a high-ranking Japanese diplomat that the U.S. and Japan do not want to share intelligence on North Korea with Seoul. Shotaro Yachi, the Japanese vice minister of Foreign Affairs, was reported as saying at a meeting with a five-member Korean delegation to Japan, including Yoo Jae-kun, chairman of the National Defense Committee under the National Assembly, that “the U.S. and Japan candidly share information on North Korea. But because the U.S. does not trust Seoul sufficiently, Japan ‘also’ will tend to be cautious in sharing intelligence with Seoul.”

This is significant in that a responsible diplomat officially confirmed that there is a problem with information sharing between the Seoul and Washington, and Seoul and Tokyo. His remark can be safely translated as, “Because the U.S. and Japan cannot trust the South Korean government, the two countries cannot share information on Pyongyang with it.” The core member of Japan’s North Korea policymaking team also pointed out, “Seoul seems to lean left of center, while the U.S. and Japan are on the right, and China and North Korea are on the left.”

Lacking the ability to collect information on its own, South Korea relies on the U.S. for 90 percent of its North Korean military information. However, the situation changed significantly with the “Sunshine policy” by the Kim Dae-jung administration and strengthened nationalistic stance of the incumbent government.

Some experts familiar with the U.S., including GNP Rep. Park Jin, have argued so far, “Some officials in the Bush administration shun sharing of sensitive strategic information because they don’t consider Korea as a reliable ally.” Indeed, some signs of problems in Seoul-Washington information sharing were detected whenever major issues emerge, such as the large-scale explosion in Yanggangdo in September last year.

However, the government dismissed those who raised questions, saying, “The information sharing system is perfect.” It is questionable whether the government deceived the public, knowing that it was excluded from information sharing, or that it was not aware of that at all.

Why does the government retain such a calm attitude over a failure to share information with Washington and Tokyo, which is a pivotal element in ensuring the security of the public? If its attitude is based on the perception that national cooperation is more important than alliances, the Roh administration will have to face the question of whether it will abandon national security.