A sad realityAfter criticizing the Moon Jae-in administration’s decision to scrap the General Security of Military Information Agreement (Gsomia) with Japan, the United States went so far as to find fault with South Korea’s military exercise to defend the Dokdo islets from external threats. On Tuesday, a State Department spokesperson said that the drill in the East Sea was not productive in resolving issues involving security in Northeast Asia. The statement reflects a U.S. attempt to take Japan’s side after South Korea’s unilateral decision to abandon the Gsomia. Though Japan has consistently complained about the exercise since 1996, the United States has kept a neutral position. But it has turned negative toward the defense drill.
The shift follows South Korea’s decision to abandon the agreement after Japan’s economic retaliations for our Supreme Court’s rulings on wartime forced labor, despite Washington’s pleas not to. In fact, the United States has been ratcheting up its criticism of withdrawal from the military intelligence-sharing pact. Shortly after South Korea’s decision last Thursday to withdraw from the Gsomia, the State Department expressed strong concerns and disappointment. Three days later, it even raised the issue of increased threats to the safety of U.S. Forces Korea.
The U.S. Congress is also weighing in. Rep. Eliot Engel articulated his concerns as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “I am deeply concerned by President Moon Jae-in’s decision to terminate the General Security of Military Information Agreement,” he said. Rep. Michael McCaul, a Republican from Texas, said he was “disappointed that the future of intelligence sharing” between Seoul and Tokyo “has been thrown into doubt by South Korea’s decision to withdraw from” the Gsomia.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are like soulmates. Before having a bilateral summit on the sidelines of the G7 Summit in France, Trump said, “As long as he’s prime minister and as long as I’m president, I think we’re always on the same page.”
If such a trust gap continues, South Korea could be dropped from the traditional trilateral security cooperation among Seoul, Washington and Tokyo. In return for South Korea’s decision to discard Gsomia, Washington may present higher bills — such as a call to send Korean troops to the Strait of Hormuz. Future conflict between Korea and Japan will center on trade. The Moon administration must avert a further deterioration of the alliance.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 29, Page 30