South Korea agreed to extend the intelligence-sharing agreement (GSOMIA) with Japan on November 22 only six hours left to its expiration. That was possible thanks to the concessions given by Tokyo, since Seoul had announced in August that it tended not to extend it unless the Japanese government meets more demands to close the painful pages of WWII, including new trade deals, despite earlier agreements to do so. Plus, there was the issue of Takeshima Island, where South Korea had embarked its soldiers on Japanese territory, claiming historical rights, took advantage of the Japanese constitution, which prohibits the use of military force in political disagreements.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe knew that South Korean President Moon Jae-in wanted to make a point that his country which remained under Japanese occupation between 1910 and 1945 was now in a position to stand strong against its historical rival and neighbor. Japan, on the other hand, needed intelligence by South Korea (obtained not only by electronic means but by spies in the field) about North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons program, as the only nation which has been subjected to an atomic bomb by the U.S., now ally for both neighbors.
But that was not the only gain of Japan through the extension of the intelligence deal. By this extension which the U.S. has been pressing for, Japan may become a part of the largest intelligence bloc to aimed to share electronic information against not only North Korea but particularly against China and its strategic partner Russia. Japan is likely to be a part of the “Five Eyes” intelligence group to make it “Five plus three”, together with France and Germany.
What is Five Eyes?
Five Eyes (dubbed as FVEY) is an intelligence-sharing organization between the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand; all being English speaking countries. It was launched as a top-secret operation in 1946, right after the WWII between the U.S. and UK with an agreement called UKUSA.
The first “Third-party partner” to the alliance was Turkey in 1949 (before Turkey joining to NATO in 1952) due to its strategic location neighboring to the Soviet Union, now Russian Federation and also the Middle East, through a bilateral agreement with the U.S. Turkey never became a part of the Five Eyes which got its name after Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as members of the Commonwealth joined the group in 1955.
There were similar bilateral agreements by the U.S. with several NATO countries from Germany to France, from the Netherlands to Norway and Israel, Jordan and Egypt in the Middle East, which never became full members of the Five Eyes. They started to share intelligence obtained from the eavesdropping the telephone lines and radar antennas and expanded the operation to all communications intelligence thanks to the developments in satellite technology, digital technology and the internet. The presence of the Five Eyes, which was known only among intelligence circles was made public in 2013 when an NSA contractor, Edward Snowden exposed secret documents that he illegally obtained.
The Group expands and China rises
Reportedly in 2018 June, the Five Eyes chiefs decided to propose membership to non-English speaker France, Germany and Japan. That was to monitor the activities of China as the country became a power in the field of communications with companies like Huawei and ZTE, with developments in 5G technology permitting “back door” possibilities to have access to confidential digital information. And also increasing Russian cyberattack and cyber protection capabilities which has been a major issue in the U.S. domestic politics due to claims about intervention in 2016 elections, still causing headache to the U.S. President Donald Trump. And there is also North Korea. The increasing use of internet and deep internet by terrorist groups, as it was observed in the Syria war by ISIS was another factor. Plus there are the electronic intelligence capacities of France, Germany and Japan are trusted by the Five Eyes members as contributions to their existing capacity.
All members and potential members of the Five Eyes, or “Five eyes + 3” as they started to call it have already started to bring bans on the use of Huawei cell phones and communications systems in their public offices to prevent “back door” access to their sensitive info. Depending on your point of view, that can be interpreted as the concern to lose access to information of allies who would stop using U.S. or U.S.-ally products, mainly because of Chinese products are cheaper compared to American iPhone or South Korean Samsung for example.
Any other new members?
If the intelligence-sharing agreement between Tokyo and Seoul would not be extended that could have delayed the Five Eyes plans to contain China-Russia cyber partnership.
This expansion of the world’s most effective intelligence group brings into minds the question of whether there are other new members. Russian sources claim that Israel was another newcomer to the group. Israel’s name exists in the media reports about Five Eyes from time to time with no confirmation yet.
As it is about to introduce the 5G technology in telecommunications, rising competition power of the Chinese products due to their price and subject to cyberattacks as well as terrorist attacks frequently, Turkey’s position is unique. There are lots of political problems between Turkey and its allies; not only with the U.S. but the European Union countries as well, mainly due to closer relations with Russia in recent years. But the special intelligence relations on its 70th year with the U.S., through Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) is still there. Its importance was once again proved following the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul in 2018. Intelligence sharing is the only area which the sanction proposals in the House and the Senate exclude, in spite of they go as far as to include the personal wealth of Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan and his family. Turkey also hosts one of five radar facilities around the globe in the framework of the U.S. Missile shield project; two of them are on the American, one on British and one on Japanese territory. The world is getting smaller, isn’t it?