|North Korea fires a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) Pukguksong-3 off the coast of Wonsan, Gangwon Province, Oct.2, in this photo released by the country's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) the following day. Yonhap|
Japan wants to engage more in peace efforts on Korean Peninsula
By Jung Da-min
Japan appears to want to extend a bilateral military information sharing pact, known as GSOMIA, with South Korea to help counter North Korea's military provocations, experts said Sunday.
With Japanese authorities initially failing to provide the exact number of missiles for the North's recent launch of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), calls were high for the extension of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) as the pact strengthens joint efforts by Washington, Seoul and Tokyo to monitor the North, who has recently ramped up missile tests over the last month.
South Korea scrapped the GSOMIA after Japan delisted the country from its list of preferred trade partners. The agreement is set to expire on Nov. 24. In Japan's upper house of parliament, last week, in reference to Seoul's decision to terminate the pact, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the decision would not affect Japan's security.
Abe's remarks were in response to the growing criticism over possible security vulnerability with Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshishide Suga correcting initial reports of the number of missiles launched by the North, saying there was only one.
South Korean authorities had earlier said the North fired one ballistic missile and they speculated it was a type of Pukguksong, an SLBM series developed in the North.
According to Japanese media reports, some Japanese politicians have raised concerns about Japanese authorities' capability to provide proper information on the North's missile launches. The politicians also raised the issue of the GSOMIA with South Korea, saying the pact should be renewed.
Experts said that because of its proximity to the North, South Korea had advantages over Japan in being able to detect details of a launch from the moment a projectile is fired. Japan, on the other hand, can detect more details when a projectile lands in the sea, if it flies far enough to reach Japan's exclusive maritime zone.
|Cho Seong-ryoul. / Courtesy of Cho Seong-ryoul|
"In the same sense, Japanese authorities would find it hard to get the exact details when it comes to the status in its launching stage, including the launching point."
While the Japanese PM played down the significance of South Korea's ending the GSOMIA, experts pointed out that the North's recent launch of a Pukguksong-3 SLBM had heightened tensions in Japan because the medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) can reach Japanese islands.
"When the North was firing short-range missiles including one time in July when Abe was playing golf during his vacation, Japan did not think they posed a serious threat as they did not reach the Japanese islands," Cho said. "But this time it is an MRBM flying about 2,000 kilometers reaching the Japanese islands without being correctly detected. It is natural that Japan feels a sense of crisis."
Ankit Panda, an international security and defense analyst, now an adjunct senior fellow in the Defense Posture Project at the Federation of American Scientists, said North Korea's Pukguksong-3 SLBM test marked the "demonstration of the longest-range solid-fuel missile capability in North Korea ever."
|Ankit Panda. / Courtesy of Ankit Panda|
Panda said the Pukguksong-3 SLBM would make it difficult for Japan to solve its national security problems. He said Japan would still want to continue the GSOMIA with South Korea because the pact was "an important and a critical building block for trilateral cooperation with the United States in Northeast Asia."
Japan would also want to engage more in security discussions on the Korean Peninsula, Panda said, because Japan had been left out of denuclearization negotiations while other old "six-party" countries ― including the U.S., South Korea, China and Russia ― have all engaged in summit-level diplomacy with North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un.
North Korea is believed to have used solid fuel for the submarine launch. Solid fuel launches are harder to detect than those using liquid fuel, because solid fuel can be loaded quicker and stored longer than liquid fuel, increasing the mobility.
|Roland Wilson. / Courtesy of Roland Wilson|
"More importantly, regardless of current lingering historical and trade issues between South Korea and Japan, Japan has a major role to play in the peace process both before, during and after unification takes place," Wilson said. "Therefore, bilateral, trilateral and even four-party talks are very important in the peace efforts."