Missile launches, military drills, and the deterioration of U.S-led alliance in Northeast Asia . . .
North Korea fired two missiles on Saturday, a day after South Korea announced that it would not extend its bilateral intelligence sharing pact (GSOMIA) with Japan. Analysts noted that the Japanese Ministry of Defence was 12 minutes faster than its South Korean counterpart in announcing the launch of “apparent ballistic missiles” by North Korea, underscoring the importance of the pact to South Korea. Vipin Narang of MIT noted that South Korea’s missile defence system lacks Japan’s capacities for characterizing missile flight profiles and ranges. Seoul and Tokyo will ultimately exchange intelligence on the Saturday launch, as the GSOMIA remains in effect until November 22.
South Korea’s military operations . . .
On Sunday, South Korea started two days of drills around Dokdo/Takeshima, a disputed island in the Sea of Japan claimed by both Seoul and Tokyo. The drill, for the first time, included a destroyer equipped with Aegis missile guidance and combat system; and army special forces, and covered a much wider area than previous exercises. While Seoul claimed that it was an annual exercise and not aimed at any specific country, Tokyo has read the drills as a further provocation amid its diplomatic spat with Seoul. Japan’s foreign ministry called the drills “unacceptable,” and protested the operations around the island.
Disunited against North Korea . . .
A weaker trilateral alliance between the U.S., Japan, and South Korea benefits North Korea, and the deterioration of Seoul-Tokyo relations combined with a lack of U.S. leadership in the region, seems to be delivering exactly what Pyongyang wants. Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo affirmed co-operation with France, Canada, and Germany on North Korea at the G7 meeting this weekend in Biarritz, France, but was at odds with U.S. President Donald Trump. While Abe said the launches Saturday by North Korea breached UN sanctions, Trump disagreed and downplayed their importance. This disunited front against North Korea is concerning, and it may further compromise the stability of an already volatile region.