According to a report in The Korea Herald, the United States wants South Korea to join the intelligence-sharing alliance ‘Five Eyes’. The vote comes days after a US House of Representatives panel approved the National Defense Authorization bill for fiscal year 2022, on 2 September, before the House votes on it.
It was first introduced on 2 July by Representatives Adam Smith and Mike Rogers and is intended to authorize funding for American military activities and the armed forces for the next fiscal year. The US may also continue to support intelligence-sharing operations with allies, including Five Eyes nations.
In the report of the congressional Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations that reviewed Smith and Rogers’ draft bill, mention of the Five Eyes alliance was found. In dealing with great power competition [from China and Russia], the Five Eye countries must work more closely together, as well as broaden the circle of trust to include other like-minded democracies, the report said. In addition to Korea, Japan, India, and Germany were proposed as possible new members.
The National Defense Authorisation bill for fiscal year 2022, if passed by the US House of Representatives and Senate, and signed by President Joe Biden, will lead to the expansion of the ‘Five Eyes’ to the ‘Nine Eyes’. According to The Korea Herald, the South Korean government has yet to declare its ‘official stance’ on a potential expansion of the Five Eyes, and that US discussions remain ‘nascent’.
Aspects of ‘Five Eyes’
Five Eyes is an intelligence alliance comprised of the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. US and UK codebreakers began meeting informally during the Second World War and that is where the Five Eyes came from. In 1941, British and American intelligence members began secret meetings prior to signing the Atlantic Charter in August, which outlined global objectives for both countries after the war.
According to the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), this Charter paved the way for the Britain-USA agreement and the UK-USA agreement, which were signed in 1946. Declassified UKUSA intelligence documents show that the agreement was expanded to include Canada in 1948, and Australia and New Zealand in 1956, resulting in the Five Eyes alliance, partly as a result of a shared Commonwealth heritage.
‘Five Eyes’ and ‘Cold War’
During the Cold War, the United States and Soviet Union, as well as their respective allies, formed the alliance. The Cold War was marked by covert intelligence operations, which were often the main currency for the parties involved. Therefore, alliances needed to share sensitive information regarding their adversaries on all available fronts.
Andrew O’Neil, a Political Science professor, says the Five Eyes alliance members engaged in ‘ocean surveillance, covert action, human intelligence collection, and counterintelligence’ since the 1960s, as well as the ECHELON surveillance program. During the Cold War, the Five Eyes countries also shared intelligence with other allied nations in Europe and Asia, also called ‘third parties’. Ken Kotani, a Japanese historian, said in the East Asia Forum that Japan and the U.S. exchanged military signals during the Sino-Soviet conflict in 1969 as well as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.
Efforts to expand the Five Eyes
After the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the strategic objectives of the Five Eyes shifted, with the war on terror and later the perceived threats of China and Russia emerging as points of intelligence and spheres of influence. Since the Five Eyes operate primarily in the Anglosphere, the potential to expand it beyond this realm has been repeatedly discussed.
According to a report by Deutsche Welle, in 2013, US lawmakers asked President Barack Obama to include Germany in the alliance. A US Congressional Committee, led by Representative Adam Schiff, called for India, Japan, and South Korea to be integrated with ‘Five Eyes’ for intelligence sharing to maintain peace in the Indo-Pacific region. Earlier in 2020, China and India petitioned tech companies to allow “backdoor access” to encrypted applications on smartphones as a part of the Five Eyes initiative.