India, Japan & South Korea agreed trilateral military pact against China

Japan and South Korea on 29th June 2012 agreed to share intelligence in their first joint military pact since World War II.

The agreement is seen as a breakthrough in ties between two neighbors with a difficult history. Japan ruled Korea as a colony for several decades until the end of World War II in 1945, and Seoul has often been wary of Japan's postwar military development, but the nations have many shared concerns, particularly North Korea and China.

Noting that the South China Sea was witnessing "competing claims", India strongly pitched for co-operation instead of competition in the seas and oceans at a trilateral meeting with Japan and South Korea.

With China's growing assertiveness in the West Philippines Sea (South China Sea), India, Japan and South Korea - Asia's three leading democracies –( June 29, 2012 )Friday held their first trilateral meeting in India and pitched for freedom of seas and expanding their multifaceted cooperation.

Asserting that India, Japan and Republic of Korea depend heavily on the Sea Lanes of Communications (SLOCs) for their energy security which are also the mainstay for trade and connectivity, Sanjay Singh, Secretary (East) in Ministry of External Affairs, said "there is indeed a compelling case for us to cooperate on maritime security."

"India has a valued geostrategic location straddling the SLOCs. The Indian Ocean Rim is characterized by large Exclusive Economic Zones and unexplored and untapped marine resources. Similar potential exists for example in the South China Sea which today is witnessing competing claims.

The three sides discussed a host of regional and global issues to cement their trilateral cooperation cutting across diverse areas, including maritime cooperation, security, terrorism, and trade and investment.

The trilateral dialogue seeks to address the three major themes - the evolving Asian security architecture, non-traditional security issues and prospects and challenges for this process.

The India-Japan-South Korea trilateral seeks to reinforce the India-Japan-US trilateral dialogue that also focuses on expanding strategic and maritime cooperation.

They identified the Institute of Defense Studies and Analyses (IDSA), Korea National Diplomatic Academy, and Tokyo Foundation as the three partnering institutions to carry forward the trilateral dialogue.

"Being leading democracies of the world, we share a common commitment to democratic values, open society, human rights and the rule of law," Sanjay Singh, Secretary (East) in the external affairs ministry, said while underlining a congruence of strategic interests of the three leading economies of the region.

"We seek a peaceful and secure Asia free from the threats of terrorism, proliferation, piracy and conflict between states," he said.

Although China was not mentioned explicitly, it was very much the elephant in the room, with discussions focusing on maritime cooperation and freedom of navigation in international sea lanes of communication.

"There is common commitment to maintaining freedom of the seas, combating terrorism and promoting inclusive economic growth. India, Japan and ROK depend heavily on the Sea Lanes of Communications (SLOCs) for their energy security," Singh said.

"These are also the mainstay for trade and connectivity amongst our countries and other countries in the region. India has a valued geostrategic location straddling the SLOCs," he said.

In this context, the three sides noted that like the Indian Ocean Rim, West Philippines Sea has tremendous potential for cooperation, but is "is witnessing competing claims".

"Our common objective is to see that the seas and oceans become regions of cooperation instead of competition, particularly as our energy security and trade depends on them," Singh said.

Underlining the need for maritime cooperation, the sides discussed ways to expand trilateral cooperation to deal the conventional risks associated with nuclear power and confront the risks of nuclear and missile proliferation in our neighborhoods.

"Deepening cooperation amongst our defense and security establishments will promote our mutual security," said Singh.

Beijing has yet to react to the India-Japan-South Korea trilateral, but it has been uneasy about leading democracies of the region getting together in what it sees as an exercise in encirclement of a rising China.

Trilateral Military pact

The pact establishes a framework for sharing intelligence in such areas as missile defense, North Korea's nuclear weapons program, Chinese military operations and other regional security matters.

It was previously approved by South Korea, and Japan's Cabinet gave its final approval Friday ahead of a formal signing ceremony. "Considering the security situation in east Asia, it is very significant for us to create the foundations for sharing information," said Japan's foreign minister, Koichiro Genba. "I think this is a very historic event."

The pact reflects deepening mutual concerns that more cooperation is needed to enhance security readiness.

The two countries are increasingly concerned by potential threats from North Korea, which is developing its long-range missile and nuclear weapons capabilities. They are also closely watching the rise of China's military.

North Korea heightened regional tensions in April with the launch of a rocket that was widely criticized as a test of long-range missile technology. The launch was of particular concern to Seoul and Tokyo because they are within reach of the North's missile arsenal.

Such fears spurred the government efforts to cooperate more closely on intelligence sharing, though the pact remains controversial among some in South Korea.

"An accord for military-information protection with Japan is necessary given the ever-growing threat from the North," South Korea's JoongAng Daily newspaper said in an editorial. "The more quality information we have about the North, the better our security."

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