"There are still some hang-ups in South Korea," he says. Koreans aren't exactly ready for an official alliance with Japan, which still conjures images of the colonial era for many Koreans.
Japan occupied Korea for 35 years as part of its imperialist expansion before World War II. Despite the fact that six decades have past since the end of that colonization, South Korean politicians remain cautious about strengthening their relationship with Japan.
North Korea’s attack on Yeonpyeong Island in November, however, which killed two South Korean soldiers and two civilians, along with its unveiling of a uranium enrichment facility has given new relevance to military cooperation between Tokyo and Seoul.
The agreements would allow South Korea and Japan to fluidly exchange intelligence on North Korea’s weapon programs. If signed, the proposed military cooperation agreements would be the first such agreement between the two nations since Japan’s occupation of Korea.
“The US has a very close military alliance between both Japan and South Korea. So this is the missing link, between South Korea and Japan,” says Professor Lee. “It could serve to keep the pressure on North Korea.”
The meeting between Defense ministers comes as North Korea is pushing for inter-Korean dialogue. On Saturday, North Korea formally proposed “an unconditional and early opening of the talks between the authorities of the North and the South."