Pulling out of Gsomia alarms U.S. and JapanBoth Tokyo and Washington expressed concerns about South Korea’s decision Thursday to pull out of a military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan.
“It is unfortunate to see Korea responding in measures that are damaging trust between the two nations,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a group of reporters at his residence in Tokyo on Friday. “It is still our hope in Japan that Korea would first try to resolve its violation of the Claims Agreement between the Republic of Korea and Japan, in order to renew our trust in each other. We will continue to request them to meet the promises made.”
“Japan has responded in ways to ensure that the [bilateral disputes] do not hurt Japan-U.S.-Korea cooperation on regional security,” he said. “We will continue to cooperate with the United States in the future to ensure peace and security in the region and in Japan.”
“We cannot hide our disappointment,” Japanese Minister of Defense Takeshi Iwaya told reporters on Thursday. “It is extremely regrettable. We hereby ask Korea to reconsider its decision, […] as bilateral cooperation and Japan-U.S.-South Korea cooperation are especially important in such times as this when North Korea is repeatedly firing missiles.”
President Moon Jae-in on Thursday decided to withdraw from the General Security of Military Information Agreement (Gsomia) with Japan, citing “serious changes” in security cooperation between the two countries as a result of Tokyo’s removal of South Korea from a list of preferred trading partners this month.
Signed in November 2016, Gsomia is renewed automatically every year unless either of the two countries decides to scrap the pact, in which case it must provide the other with at least a 90 days’ notice. Today is 90 days before the renewal date of Nov. 23.
The U.S. State Department and the Pentagon also expressed their concerns.
“We’re disappointed to see the decision that the South Koreans made about that information-sharing agreement,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a joint press conference with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland during his visit in Ottawa on Thursday. “We’re urging each of the two countries to continue to engage, to continue to have dialogue.”
Pompeo said he spoke earlier in the day with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and that she and her counterpart in Japan “were working to put this back together.”
“It’s absolutely valuable not only to the work you mentioned in the context of North Korea, but important in the work we do all around the world,” he said. “They are both great partners and friends of the United States, and we are hopeful they can make progress together.”
The Pentagon issued a statement echoing this sentiment.
“The Department of Defense expresses our strong concern and disappointment that the Moon Administration has withheld its renewal of the Republic of Korea’s General Security of Military Information Agreement with Japan,” said Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesperson, in a statement.
“We strongly believe that the integrity of our mutual defense and security ties must persist despite frictions in other areas of the [Republic of Korea]-Japan relationship. We’ll continue to pursue bilateral and trilateral defense and security cooperation where possible with Japan and the ROK.”
The Blue House in a press briefing on Friday said Japan did not leave it with much choice.
“The decision by the government of the Republic of Korea yesterday to terminate the Gsomia between Korea and Japan was a product of extensive deliberations and taken in accordance with the national interest,” said Kim Hyun-chong, second deputy chief of the Blue House National Security Office. “In light of Japan’s claims that basic trust between Korea and Japan had been undermined, there is no longer any justification for the Republic of Korea to maintain Gsomia.”
Kim said the Supreme Court’s decision last year ordering two Japanese companies to compensate victims of wartime forced labor was not a violation of the 1965 agreement signed when the two nations normalized relations, sometimes called the property and claims agreement.
“Japan took unwarranted economic retaliation against the Republic of Korea, claiming that since the ruling by the Korean Supreme Court last year runs counter to the 1965 Claims Agreement, the Korean government should take appropriate action to rectify the ruling by the Supreme Court because ‘Korea has violated international law,’” he said.
“Let me reiterate that the ROK government has never denied the 1965 Claims Agreement. Rather, the ROK government has consistently adhered to the position that crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Japanese government and military have not been resolved by the 1965 Claims Agreement, and thus rights of the individual victims of forced labor to claim damages remain intact. The ruling by the Korean Supreme Court reaffirmed this position.”
Kim outlined the individual requests the South Korean government made to Japan throughout July to try to discuss the issues.
“The ROK Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy also repeatedly requested consultations with the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry with regard to Korea’s export control regime that the Japanese side took issues with,” Kim said.
“In addition to the request for consultations between the Director Generals of ROK Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on July 16, we also requested one-on-one talks between the heads of delegation at the WTO General Council on July 24 and at the RCEP [Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership] ministerial meeting on July 27 but were rebuffed by Japan.”
Through all this, the Blue House said Japan has “continued to ignore us in a clear affront to our national pride and a breach of diplomatic etiquette.”
The Blue House added the United States had been consulted closely on the withdrawal decision.
“The ROK government maintained close communications with the United States in the course of reviewing the conflict with Japan as well as Gsomia,” Kim said. “In particular, there had been very close consultations between the National Security Councils of the Republic of Korea and the United States.”
Analysts noted the withdrawal will have regional repercussions.
“The Moon government may see this decision as domestically popular and as a symbolic, low-cost way of signaling resolve to Tokyo,” said Leif-Eric Easley, associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in western Seoul. “However, this move will raise international concerns that Seoul misreads the regional security situation and is presently unwilling to shoulder its responsibility for improving Korea-Japan relations.”
BY ESTHER CHUNG, SEO SEUNG-WOOK [firstname.lastname@example.org]