President Moon Jae-in said Friday military cooperation with the United States and Japan is needed to rein in the rising threat from North Korea but was skeptical over elevating it to a trilateral defense alliance.
"South Korea-U.S. military cooperation as well as Japan has become important, but the cooperation is aimed at countering North Korea's nuclear and missile provocations," Moon said an interview with Singapore's Channel NewsAsia at his office. "But I don't think it is appropriate to develop the cooperation to a level of (trilateral) military alliance."
Japan has increasingly sought a bigger international role in global military conflicts in recent years against China's growing assertiveness in Asia. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is reconsidering its traditionally pacifist stance on defense in the face of threats from Pyongyang, which has shot two missiles over Japanese territory in the recent months.
"If Japan uses a nuclear-armed North Korea as an excuse for its military expansion, it would not be appropriate for ASEAN nations as well."
While valuing the 67-year-old alliance with the U.S., Moon vowed to step up diplomatic efforts with China to peacefully resolve North Korean problems through dialogue.
"I will pursue balanced diplomacy by honoring relations with the U.S. and having a closer relationship with China at the same time," he said.
Moon said he hopes to see U.S. President Donald Trump's visit to Seoul next week ease military tension on the Korean Peninsula and provide a "breakthrough" in inter-Korean relations. (Yonhap)
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