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S. Korea, Japan sign intelligence deal despite China criticism
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Nov 23, 2016


US, China agree on tougher UN sanctions against North Korea
United Nations, United States (AFP) Nov 23, 2016 - The United States and China have agreed on a new raft of tougher UN sanctions against North Korea in response to Pyongyang's fifth and biggest nuclear test, a Security Council diplomat said Wednesday.

Although Russia has expressed reservations about the draft resolution, they should not stand in the way of a Security Council vote on the new package of punitive measures as early as next week, the diplomat said.

The key provision of the proposed new sanctions would be a cap on North Korea's coal exports to China, Pyongyang's main trading partner and ally, that could deprive the communist hermit state of tens of millions of dollars in revenue.

"The key thing is that China and the US have gotten to a position where they can agree on," the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

"The Russians are trying to hold it up, the Chinese are comfortable with it in terms of the content," he added.

The diplomat described the proposed resolution as a "very meaty" document that would close loopholes from the measure the council adopted in March, the toughest sanctions yet imposed on North Korea.

They would target coal exports, allowed under the previous measure for "livelihood purposes" if the revenue does not go toward financing Pyongyang's nuclear or ballistic missile programs.

Chinese coal imports from North Korea have surged in recent months amid fears that the funds are helping bankroll Pyongyang's military programs prohibited under UN resolutions.

New names of officials and entities linked to North Korea's ballistic and nuclear programs would be added to the UN sanctions blacklist, which provides for a global travel ban and an assets freeze.

"It is high time for the Security Council to come together to tighten up the sanctions regime against DPRK, to impose additional measures," British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said.

The new measures would be introduced next week, he added.

- Number one security threat -

China and the United States have spent three months negotiating the latest measures, which would be the sixth set of UN sanctions imposed on North Korea since its first nuclear test in 2006.

President Barack Obama reportedly told his successor Donald Trump that confronting the nuclear threat from North Korea represents the top US national security priority.

The breakthrough on the new sanctions followed a meeting between Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping over the weekend during which the US president pressed for tougher measures against Pyongyang.

North Korea carried out its fifth and biggest nuclear test on September 9, claiming it had made major strides in its efforts to fit a miniaturized warhead on a rocket that could reach the United States.

The reclusive regime has carried out more than 20 missile tests this year, one of which reached Japanese-controlled waters after a launch in August.

Japan and South Korea on Wednesday signed an agreement to share defence intelligence about North Korea, despite protests from opposition parties and activists in Seoul and strong criticism from China.

South Korea's defence ministry said the accord was necessary in the face of growing military threats from Pyongyang, which has conducted two nuclear tests and more than 20 missile launches this year.

"It is ready to conduct additional nuclear tests and missile launches at any time," the ministry said in a statement.

"Since we can now utilise Japan's intelligence capability to effectively deal with North Korea's escalating nuclear and missile threats, it will enhance our security interests."

Japan's foreign ministry said in a statement the military agreement would allow the two governments to "share information even more smoothly and swiftly".

But China, already angry at South Korea's planned deployment of a US missile defence system, sharply criticised Seoul and Tokyo for what it termed a "cold war mentality".

The agreement "will aggravate the situation in the Korean peninsula and bring new unsecure and unstable factors to Northeast Asia", said foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang at a regular briefing in Beijing.

"While conducting military cooperation, relevant countries should respect the security concerns of regional countries and do more things for peace and development, not the opposite."

China says Seoul's earlier decision to deploy the THAAD missile defence system will increase the risk of military conflict in the region.

Seoul and Tokyo currently use their mutual ally Washington as an intermediary when sharing military intelligence on Pyongyang, under a deal signed in 2014.

The new intelligence-sharing agreement is also controversial in South Korea, where memories of Japan's harsh 1910-45 colonial rule still mar relations with Tokyo.

South Korea and Japan were on the verge of signing an intelligence-sharing deal in June 2012, but Seoul backtracked at the last minute in response to a public outcry.

Noting Tokyo's surveillance assets and geographic location, South Korea's defence ministry said the deal would be a "big help" in better analysing Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programmes and collecting more intelligence about its submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

North Korea has slammed the military pact, labelling it as "a dangerous act" that would further raise already-high tensions on the Korean peninsula and open a door to Japan's "re-invasion".

The contentious issue comes as South Korean President Park Geun-Hye faces growing calls for her resignation over a widening corruption and influence-peddling scandal that has sparked huge street demonstrations.

The deal has been fiercely opposed by South Korean opposition parties and activists, who point to Seoul's failure to seek public support and historical sensitivities.

South Korea's main opposition party has called the deal "unpatriotic and humiliating" and threatened to impeach Defence Minister Han Min-Koo if the agreement was pushed through.


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