Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed regret at the strained relations with South Korea that triggered the ending of a military intelligence sharing agreement between the two regional allies.

"We have dealt with the issue from the standpoint of not unduly affecting cooperation between Japan, the United States and South Korea in dealing with the national security environment in Northeast Asia," Abe told reporters before leaving Tokyo to attend the Group of 7 summit in France. "While continuing to cooperate with the United States, we will work to protect the safety of Japan by securing the peace and stability of the region."

He was asked about South Korea's decision on Aug. 22 to end the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with Japan.

Abe added that the worsening of bilateral ties with South Korea all stemmed from South Korean Supreme Court rulings ordering Japanese companies to compensate South Korean wartime laborers.

He said the rulings violated the 1965 agreement between Japan and South Korea that settled compensation claims from World War II.

"Unfortunately, there continues to be a response that damages the relationship of trust between nations," Abe said. "Our fundamental position of asking that international promises be kept will not change."

Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya was more blistering in his criticism of Seoul's decision.

Speaking to reporters on Aug. 23, he described the decision by Seoul as "a response that totally misjudges the national security environment of the region."

He added, "I cannot but feel deep disappointment at the extremely regrettable move."

Foreign Minister Taro Kono expressed similar sentiments immediately after the South Korean government announced its intention to end the agreement.

Iwaya also touched upon the importance of continuing to cooperate with both the United States and South Korea to maintain security in the region.

"I will strongly call on South Korea to reconsider and make a wise decision," Iwaya said.

But he said it would likely become more difficult for direct defense cooperation between Japan and South Korea.

He added that Japan was in no way in the wrong because officials "had repeatedly transmitted through diplomatic channels Japan's intention to have the agreement continue."

Other officials were also critical of South Korea's decision.

Senior Vice Foreign Minister Masahisa Sato, a former colonel in the Ground Self-Defense Force, described Seoul's decision as "foolish" on a TV news program on Aug. 22.

He said ending the agreement was an "unthinkable option" and that South Korea had misjudged the national security environment in the region, including North Korea.

Japanese government officials had long maintained that South Korea was to blame for the worsening of bilateral ties starting with the South Korean Supreme Court rulings.

Even as calls arose in South Korea to end the GSOMIA with Japan, government officials were confident Seoul would not take that step since it would anger the United States.

Some were even saying bilateral ties would improve if South Korea decided to extend the agreement.

But the latest decision leaves bilateral ties in a quagmire and few prospects for improving relations in the near future.