U.S., South Korea and Japan to Pool Intelligence Against North Korea

12-26-14 Kim Jong Un
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) presides over an urgent operation meeting on the Korean People's Army Strategic Rocket Force's performance of duty for firepower strike at the Supreme Command in Pyongyang, early March 29, 2013, in this picture released by the North's official KCNA news agency. KCNA/Reuters

The United States, South Korea and Japan are preparing to sign an intelligence-sharing agreement, the Associated Press and the Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency report. It would allow the three countries to better prepare and respond to threats from North Korea by sharing military intelligence about the isolated country's nuclear and missile programs.

"The three nations have agreed to sign the trilateral deal on Monday to share their intelligence on North Korea's nuclear and missile threats," an official from Seoul's defense ministry told Yonhap. "Sharing of intelligence will be strictly limited to the North's nuclear and missile programs in such various forms as documents, photos and digital electronic data. We will exchange secrets with Japan not directly but via the U.S."

Currently, the U.S. has separate, individual agreements with South Korea and Japan, but an attempt by South Korea and Japan in 2012 to sign a similar pact to share intelligence failed at the last minute after causing an uproar in South Korea. The anger stemmed from the enduring emotional scars and unresolved tensions from Japan's colonial rule of the Korean peninsula between 1910 and 1945, including the memories of sexual enslavement of Korean women as "Comfort Women" in Japanese military brothels during World War II.

The agreement to share information about North Korea's nuclear and missile programs through the U.S. instead of directly between South Korea and Japan, alleviates the distrust that exists between the two countries.

The communist stronghold north of the Korean demilitarized zone at the 38th parallel confirmed in February 2013 that it had conducted its third nuclear test, following tests in 2006 and 2009. In October of this year, 38 North, a project of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, said that North Korea had overhauled its rocket launch site, which would allow it to fire longer-range rockets. These technological advances occurred despite the sanctions issued by the United Nations for the country's missile and nuclear tests.

News of the intelligence-sharing agreement comes soon after the recent hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment in response to The Interview, a comedy starring James Franco and Seth Rogan as a tabloid television host and producer plotting the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The FBI concluded that the North Korean government was responsible for the attack.

According to Global Post, South Korean Vice Defense Minister Baek Seung-joo, Japanese Vice Defense Minister Masanori Nishi and U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work will sign the pact on Monday without a formal ceremony.

"We believe that the arrangement will be very effective in deterring the communist country from launching provocations in the first place," the South Korean ministry official told Yonhap.

"The cooperation between the three nations is expected to boost the quality of the intelligence on North Korea, which will enable the allies to respond to possible provocations in a swifter fashion."