Extend the GsomiaThe simultaneous trip to Seoul by U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley for the 51st Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) draws attention to a mounting security danger on the Korean Peninsula. Gen. Milley even raised the idea of withdrawing the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) — a formerly taboo idea in Washington — whereas some Koreans are calling for the redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons. It is fortunate that the two allies agreed to continue security cooperation among Seoul, Washington and Tokyo to cope with North Korean missile and nuclear threats.
Seoul and Washington had many issues to discuss, including determining their fair shares of defense costs, what to do with the Korea-Japan General Security of Military Information Agreement (Gsomia) and wrapping up the proposed early transfer of military operational control back to South Korea. For annual defense cost sharing, U.S. President Donald Trump wants Seoul to pay $5 billion, nearly five times the current amount. Gen. Milley linked South Korea’s defense cost sharing to a pullout of the USFK. The standards of the alliance have degenerated into mere dollars and cents, not shared values and trust. Nevertheless, the two countries must negotiate in a fair and reasonable manner.
The crisis in the alliance partly stems from our government’s push to terminate Gsomia with Japan and its attempt to get operational control back as soon as possible. Without such disputes, we could have negotiated with the United States from a better position. If South Korea does not extend Gsomia, the United States will interpret it as a reluctance to join the U.S-led Indo-Pacific strategy. In a press conference shortly after the SCM, Esper underscored the importance of maintaining Gsomia, as its termination will only help Beijing and Pyongyang.
As Esper said, Gsomia carries great significance. To effectively counter attacks by 70 North Korean submarines, information provided by Japan’s maritime patrol aircraft equipped with cutting-edge detection capabilities is essential. If Gsomia is ended, we must get that information via the United States. The same applies to our response to 1,000 ballistic missiles in North Korea, as Japan could provide us information on any suspicious movements thanks to the bilateral pact. As massive reinforcements and logistics support also must come to South Korea through U.S. bases in Japan, a swift exchange of military information is required among the three countries.
But the Moon administration seems to be ignorant of such grave security matters. When two North Koreans allegedly defected to South Korea last week, it repatriated them against their will. The Blue House even refused a proposed meeting between President Moon and the parents of Otto Warmbier, who died six days after his return to the United States after 17 months of detention in North Korea. The government must re-establish its security policy to restore the alliance. That starts with withdrawing the threat to leave Gsomia.