Japan, US say 3-way ties with S. Korea are key to security

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) meets with US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley (L) at the Abe's office in Tokyo on November 12, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 12 November 2019

Japan, US say 3-way ties with S. Korea are key to security

  • Relations between Japan and South Korea in recent months have been their lowest in decades
  • Milley also met with PM Shinzo Abe and Defense Minister Taro Kono

TOKYO: The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, agreed with Japanese officials Tuesday that three-way cooperation with South Korea is key to regional security and that an intelligence sharing pact between Tokyo and Seoul should not be scrapped.
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said he told Milley that discord among the three countries would only destabilize the region and benefit North Korea, China and Russia.
“We shared a view that Japan-US-South Korea cooperation is more important now than ever, as we discussed the latest situation related to North Korea, including the North’s latest launch of ballistic missiles,” Motegi said.
He and Milley also agreed on the importance of the Japan-South Korea intelligence sharing pact. Motegi added that Milley promised to convey that message to South Korea during his upcoming visit there.
South Korea has announced plans to scrap the General Security of Military Information Agreement, or GSOMIA, amid disputes with Japan over trade and wartime history.
The deal, which is set to expire later this month, symbolizes the Asian neighbors’ security cooperation with Washington in the face of North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat and China’s growing influence. US President Donald Trump’s administration has been exerting last-minute pressure on Japan and South Korea to keep the deal.
Milley also met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Defense Minister Taro Kono, according to the Foreign Ministry and news reports.
Relations between Japan and South Korea in recent months have been their lowest in decades.
Japan has denounced South Korean court rulings that ordered Japanese companies to compensate elderly South Koreans for forced labor during World War II, insisting that all compensation issues were settled by a 1965 treaty normalizing relations between the two countries.
South Korea accuses Tokyo of ignoring its people’s suffering under Japan’s brutal colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, and reacted angrily to Japan’s tightening of controls on key technology exports to South Korea and the downgrading of its trade status.

Taliban attacks ‘damaging’ peace process, says Afghan govt

Updated 50 min 30 sec ago

Taliban attacks ‘damaging’ peace process, says Afghan govt

  • Spokesman for insurgent group accuses Kabul of making ‘excuses’ to delay talks

KABUL: Afghanistan’s government on Sunday accused the Taliban of increasing its attacks, casting doubt on future negotiations with the insurgent group.

A promise of future peace talks was part of a historic peace deal signed in February between the Taliban and the US in Doha, Qatar. But negotiations have already been delayed twice because of disagreements between President Ashraf Ghani’s government and the Taliban. The talks were expected to pave the way for a total withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan by next year.

In a series of tweets on Sunday, Sediq Sediqqi, Ghani’s chief spokesman, said the “intensification of violence by the Taliban lately,” which also claimed civilian lives, “damages hopes for the start of the talks and stable peace in the country.”

It follows a statement by Hamdullah Mohib, Ghani’s national security adviser, who said in a statement last night that the escalation of Taliban attacks was the “main cause for the postponement of the talks.”

He said: “The Taliban have intensified their violence in many parts of Afghanistan, disrupting the process of direct talks and making it harder.”

Mohib’s spokesman, Javid Faisal, said on Saturday that in the past week alone, the Taliban had staged attacks in 16 of the country’s 34 provinces, resulting in the deaths of at least 23 civilians.

He did not give an estimate of casualties sustained by government forces. However, official data released last month showed that hundreds of army and police personnel died during Taliban attacks in June.

The Taliban has rejected the claims of the government. Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid blamed Kabul for several strikes which “led to the fatalities among non-combatants.”

These include a rocket attack at a cattle market in southern Helmand in June, where human rights groups say dozens of civilians, including children, were killed.

“A political solution is the only alternative that we have for ending the war and changing the situation in Afghanistan. No hindrance should be created against this,” Mujahid told Arab News on Sunday.

He accused Kabul of blocking the start of peace talks by not releasing 5,000 Taliban prisoners, a condition demanded by the insurgent group ahead of negotiations.

While Kabul has freed over 4,000 Taliban prisoners, it said last week that it would not release 600 of them, “as they had committed various types of crimes.”

Mujahid described the government move as “one excuse after the other.”

He said: “The release of the rest of the prisoners is a must. If the process of release of prisoners is not completed, the talks cannot begin, and there is a possibility that fighting will intensify and then we will have to settle the conflict through military means.”

Experts warn that Ghani’s government is under increasing pressure.

Former diplomat and analyst Ahmad Saeedi said Ghani is under pressure from Washington, which “wants to show that it is keen to conduct talks, but from the other side wants this process to continue for five years,” until Ghani’s term ends.

“Ghani wants the Taliban to join his government, while the Taliban consider his government fragile, arguing that if he does not engage in talks, then they will take power by force after the US pulls out troops,” Saeedi said.

Another analyst, Taj Mohammad, said the lack of progress in setting a fixed time for the talks was a blow for the peace process and “showed that the actual negotiations would be highly complicated and difficult.”