Blue House is considering reversal on Gsomia

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Blue House is considering reversal on Gsomia

With little progress being achieved in discussions on the lifting of Japan’s export restrictions on Korea, the Blue House has been internally reconsidering the termination of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (Gsomia) with Tokyo, said a government source Monday.

“Recently, within the Blue House there have been strong claims for Gsomia to be terminated again under the current situation,” the source, who is familiar with Seoul-Tokyo relations and Washington affairs, told the JoongAng Ilbo. The source added that these sentiments were conveyed to the Foreign Ministry.

The Blue House on Aug. 22 said it would not be extending Seoul’s intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo in response to Japan’s export restriction measures and removal of Korea from its so-called white list of trusted trading partners.

In November, hours before the termination of the pact took effect, Korea decided it will conditionally keep Gsomia, and Seoul and Tokyo also agreed to resume trade talks.

Since then, little progress has been made in talks amid Seoul’s call for Tokyo to end its trade restrictions, which are seen as retaliation for Korean Supreme Court rulings ordering Japanese companies to compensate wartime forced labor victims in late 2018.

Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha’s remarks during a press conference last week suggesting the possibility of reconsidering Gsomia termination were “influenced by the internal atmosphere in the Blue House,” the source said.

Kang told reporters on Feb. 6 that the decision on Gsomia was “a temporary suspension of the termination, and we have the right to revive its termination at any time,” calling it an “act based on national interest.”

She noted that while there have been talks between the two countries, “we clearly have not returned to a period before July 1,” when Japan announced it would implement restrictions on the export to Korea of three materials used to manufacture semiconductors and displays.

“Within the Blue House, it is the young aides in foreign affairs and security and state affairs who are leading the push to terminate Gsomia,” said the government source, who pointed out that ahead of the April 15 general elections, “there could be a move toward reviving a firm stance toward Japan.”

Gsomia was signed by Seoul and Tokyo in November 2016 and had been renewed automatically. In order for either country to terminate Gsomia, it had to inform the other country at least 90 days in advance. Korea decided on Nov. 22 to suspend its decision to terminate the Gsomia on the condition that it could always walk away again. Seoul said that if it decides to end Gsomia, it can do so on the same day without the 90-day advance notification period.

Ahead of a summit between President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in China in late December, Japan reversed curbs on exports of photoresists to Korea, one of three materials restricted since last July. Restrictions still remain on fluorinated polyimides and hydrogen fluoride.

But terminating Gsomia not only would impact relations with Japan but also with the U.S., as Washington sees Gsomia as being symbolic of trilateral security cooperation. The Korean Foreign Ministry has been concerned over the impact ending Gsomia would have on relations with Washington. The government source said, “I don’t know about it being a strategic and tactical way to lead Japan to concede, but in reality, there will be a considerable diplomatic cost if Gsomia is terminated.”

BY SEO SEUNG-WOOK [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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