A day after South Korea announced the scrapping of a military information sharing agreement with Japan, North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles on Aug. 24, as if testing their response.

Japan reported the launches quicker than South Korea.

At 7:10 a.m. on Aug. 24, the Japanese Defense Ministry announced, “It appears that ballistic missiles were launched from North Korea.”

The announcement came 26 minutes earlier than one made by the South Korean military forces.

Since July 25, North Korea had launched projectiles, including ballistic missiles, six times. In all those instances, the South Korean military forces had announced the launches earlier than Japan.

The Japanese government dealt with the Aug. 24 launch differently from the previous six times after South Korea notified Japan of withdrawing from the GSOMIA on Aug. 23.

The General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which stipulates methods to protect information offered by each other, is a basis for cooperation between Japan and South Korea.

There is a possibility that the Japanese government was attempting to show off its high information-gathering capabilities and the importance of information-sharing.

“Japan is cooperating with the United States and is independently gathering information. We were able to show that Japan’s abilities are high,” said a high-ranking official of the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

About why Japan was earlier this time, Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters, “As we were making perfect preparations, we were able to gather information for a quick assessment.”

There are also other differences between this occasion and the previous six times.

This time, the Japanese Defense Ministry quickly concluded that the launched projectiles were ballistic missiles.

In the previous six times, the ministry only announced immediately after the launches that they were of “projectiles.” Then, later, it announced as a result of analysis that the launched projectiles were ballistic missiles.

As for the quick conclusion this time, Iwaya said, “As a result of information gathering, we judged at an early stage that what was launched were ballistic missiles.”

The seriousness of the launches differs drastically between “projectiles,” whose details are still unknown, and “ballistic missiles.”

North Korea’s launches of ballistic missiles are prohibited under resolutions made by the U.N. Security Council. Therefore, the international community cannot ignore the launches.

On the morning of Aug. 24, the Japanese government protested North Korea's missile launch strongly through a diplomatic channel in Beijing.

Immediately after the morning launch, officials of the related ministries and agencies who were in charge of risk management and members of the government “emergency gathering team” were summoned.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and other officials arrived at the prime minister’s office one after another, and discussed Japan's response for about an hour. Such a gathering was not seen the previous six times.

Regarding North Korea’s intent for the Aug. 24 launches, Iwaya said he believed that the country wanted to roil relations between Japan and South Korea.

“As North Korea is closely watching the situations of the (East Asian) region, it used the opportunity (caused by the scrapping of GSOMIA),” he said.

Meanwhile, South Korea downplayed the significance of Japan being first in announcing the Aug. 24 launches.

“(The South Korean government’s) announcement of the launches was late because it analyzed them cautiously. It is not necessary to worry about it,” said an adviser to the South Korean government on national defense policies.

The adviser denied that withdrawing from the GSOMIA led to the launches, saying, “North Korea’s intentions for the launches were to show upgraded capabilities of its missiles and keep the United States and South Korea in check. North Korea would have conducted the launches even if GSOMIA was not scrapped.”

An official of the South Korean presidential office justified ending the GSOMIA by assessing the value of information South Korea obtains on North Korea through the agreement as low.

“In regard to North Korea’s missiles, we have not received meaningful information (from Japan through the GSOMIA),” the official said.

Japan and South Korea had concluded the GSOMIA to cooperate against North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles. However, the agreement will be officially nullified on Nov. 23.

The Aug. 24 launches highlighted the challenges facing cooperation between Japan and South Korea.

(This article was written by Ryuichi Yamashita and Tamiyuki Kihara in Tokyo and Takeshi Kamiya in Seoul.)