South Korea's Defense Ministry said Monday that time was not ripe yet for signing a military intelligence pact with Japan, which was dropped by Seoul two years ago amid strong backlash at home.
Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told a press briefing that working-level officials reviewed in the past whether to sign a memorandum of understanding for the trilateral intelligence- sharing among South Korea, Japan and the United States as one of various possible ideas.
Kim stressed the need for such intelligence-sharing among allies to respond to nuclear and missile threats from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
The spokesman, however, said conditions for the intelligence pact with Japan have not been shaped yet, noting that such move was not under way at present.
Seoul and Tokyo pushed for the bilateral pact to share military intelligence on the DPRK in June 2012, but South Korea put the pact on hold at the last minute amid public uproar at home.
At that time, the Lee Myung-bak administration pushed the pact through without enough public debate for fear of possible opposition from the public.
Amid frayed ties between Seoul and Tokyo, South Korea set its basic policy at turning to the trilateral intelligence-sharing, according to a Seoul government official cited by the local daily Chosun Ilbo.
"An MOU is being considered among defense ministers or defense intelligence chiefs of South Korea, Japan and the United States instead of a bilateral agreement that could cause political controversy," said the official.
The military intelligence pact was reached between Seoul and Washington and between Tokyo and Washington, but not between Seoul and Tokyo.
Relations between South Korea and Japan have been frayed since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to power in December 2012. South Korean President Park Geun-hye refused to hold a bilateral summit with Abe due to his cabinet's wrong perception of history.
Abe recently said that he and his cabinet will inherit the Kono and Murayama Statements, which led to a trilateral summit between Park, Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit held in The Hague, the Netherlands through Tuesday.
The Kono Statement acknowledged that the Japanese Imperial Army was involved in the recruitment of more than 200,000 young women and forced them to serve in brothels. The Murayama Statement apologized for sufferings caused by the Imperial Japan to its Asian neighbors during the World War II.