- The Washington Times - Friday, November 22, 2019

South Korea announced a temporary truce in its escalating feud with Japan, saying just before the deadline for a decision that it would not cancel a key intelligence-sharing pact between the two U.S. allies.

The move was a victory for the Trump administration, as it tries to tamp down tensions between the two countries in the face of rising threats from North Korea and Japan. But South Korean officials also warned Friday they could move ahead with the cancellation of the agreement with Japan at any time if relations do not improve.

Historically tense ties between the two Northeast Asian democracies, rooted in Japan’s occupation of the Korean peninsula in the decades leading up to World War II, plunged again in recent times. Japan accused South Korea of trying to revive grievances dating to the period, responding this summer with punishing trade sanctions. South Korea in turn threatened to suspend the three-year-old intelligence-sharing pact strongly backed by Washington.

SEE ALSO: South Korea-Japan tension undercuts U.S., emboldens China and North Korea

“This government has decided to suspend our notice of Aug. 23 on the Korea-Japan intelligence agreement on the condition the agreement can be terminated at any time,” Kim You-geun, deputy director of South Korea’s national security office, told reporters in Seoul Friday.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in Tokyo that the South Korean government had made a “strategic decision” not to kill the accord, and Japanese officials said that good bilateral relations were vital to the security of the region.

The Reuters news agency reported that Japan is considering rolling back trade sanctions, including curbs on vital computer chip shipments to South Korea’s high-tech manufacturers, but that no final decision has been made. Japanese and South Korea ministers were slated to talk on the sidelines of a G-20 ministerial meeting in Nagoya, Japan, later Friday, the wire service said.

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