Japan eases off on denial of Gsomia apology

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Japan eases off on denial of Gsomia apology

Japanese officials slightly toned down their rhetoric amid a squabble with Seoul over whether Tokyo had apologized for its controversial method of announcing the decision to keep a bilateral intelligence-sharing pact last week.

Japan’s Trade Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama on Tuesday didn’t directly deny that there had been an apology by Japanese officials, unlike the previous day when he claimed “it’s not true,” when asked if Japan had apologized.

On Tuesday, Kajiyama said, “Whether there was a protest and an apology is a diplomatic issue, and I will not speak on it,” in reference to the controversy that has arisen about whether Japan apologized over the distortion of facts about the conditional extension of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (Gsomia) announced last Friday.

The Blue House protested Japan’s distortions of facts which came as the two sides struggled to resolve a trade spat and historical disputes. Seoul decided to conditionally extend Gsomia, retracting its earlier decision to terminate the intelligence-sharing pact following Tokyo’s export restriction measures and removal of Korea from its white list of preferred trading partners citing “trust” and security issues.

Chung Eui-yong, the director of the Blue House National Security Office, during a press conference on Sunday expressed “disappointment” over the manner in which the Gsomia announcement unfolded, including Tokyo’s leaking of some details to Japanese media ahead of time and making the official government announcement seven minutes late despite agreeing with Seoul to issue a simultaneous statement at 6 p.m. Friday. Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry also said in its announcement that there will be no change in its export control measures on Korea in spite of the two countries agreeing to resume negotiations between their export authorities.

The Blue House said that Korea received an apology from Japan after lodging a complaint over the distorted announcement, but the two countries butted heads as Tokyo denied it had done so.

On Friday evening, the Korean Foreign Ministry summoned a Japanese Embassy official in Seoul to lodge a complaint over the matter.

Multiple Korean government officials confirmed Tuesday that the Japanese vice foreign minister indeed sent an apology message Friday night through diplomatic channels over the Gsomia announcement controversy.

Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Sei-young told a parliamentary session Tuesday, “Through diplomatic channels, we expressed regret over actions that did not comply with our agreement” by the Japanese side and “received an explanation and expression of regret over this.” He said that he would not rebut each matter “in keeping with diplomatic magnanimity.”

While not directly acknowledging whether Tokyo had apologized to Seoul or not, Japanese officials toned down their rhetoric over the issue Tuesday, instead focusing on upcoming consultations.

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said in a press conference, “It is not true that the Japanese government apologized.”

But he added, “I understand it as that there are differences in the reports in Korea and Japan.”

Motegi further said, “Korean and Japanese authorities have begun discussions. What is important is to have proper consultations.”

He said that rather than focusing on whether there was an apology or not, “I conveyed what was important, when I met with Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, was to properly discuss the export control measures.”

Kang and Motegi held talks Saturday on the sidelines of a G-20 foreign ministerial meeting held in Nagoya, Japan.

BY SARAH KIM, SEO SEUNG-WOOK AND YUN SEOL-YOUNG [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
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