South Korea decided Friday, November 22nd against abandoning a critical military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, in what is seen as a dramatic eleventh-hour U-turn that will make the United States let out a sigh of relief.
The pact was due to expire at 12.00 a.m. amid a sharp deterioration in ties between the two countries and market economies, which came as a warning to Washington as it seeks to curb the threat from the nuclear-armed neighbour North Korea, according to AFP.
But after some stormy last-ditch diplomacy, Seoul announced it would "conditionally" suspend the expiration of the pact with just six hours left on the clock, Channel News Asia reported.
The accord’s renewal was confirmed by Kim You-geun, a national security official at Seoul's presidential Blue House.
"The Japanese government has expressed their understanding" but warned that the pact could still "be terminated at any time."
Three-way co-ordination between Tokyo, Seoul, and Washington was "extremely important," Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, adding, "I believe South Korea had taken their decision from a strategic point of view."
But Japanese Defence Minister Taro Kono stressed that it was a temporary measure and urged Seoul to extend the pact "in a firm manner."