SEOUL, South Korea — An intelligence-sharing agreement between South Korea and Japan took effect Wednesday after the countries signed the pact to better monitor North Korea, Seoul officials said.

South Korea and Japan had exchanged military intelligence via the United States under a trilateral agreement signed in 2014. But the Asian neighbors had no direct intelligence-sharing system largely because of disputes stemming from Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

South Korea's defense minister and Japan's ambassador in Seoul signed the deal Wednesday. Seoul's Foreign Ministry said the pact took effect the same day.

North Korea has reacted angrily, saying the deal would aggravate regional animosities.

In Washington, National Security Council spokesman Ned Price welcomed the agreement, saying it would allow two of America's closest allies to deter and defend against the North Korean threat.

Worries about North Korea's weapons programs have grown after Pyongyang conducted its fifth and most powerful atomic bomb test in September.

South Korean opposition lawmakers accused their government of trying to use the pact as a diversion from a snowballing scandal involving President Park Geun-hye.  South Korean officials have denied that.

The Korean Peninsula was divided into U.S.-backed South Korea and Soviet-supported North Korea at the end of the Japanese occupation.

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