On November 22, South Korea officially notified Japan that it was holding off on the termination of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) which it had announced in August.
The arrangement, which includes sharing intelligence on North Korea, was scheduled to become inoperative at midnight of November 22. The last-minute reprieve means the agreement has been automatically extended for one year.
Seoul also agreed to suspend procedures in the appeal of its complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) concerning Japan’s stiffened export controls on shipments of sensitive materials to South Korea, which the Japanese government imposed out of national security concerns. Instead, the two governments will engage in a policy dialogue.
"Cooperation between Japan and South Korea, as well as among our two nations plus the United States, is of the utmost importance,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Friday, November 22, after the South Korean decision was announced. "South Korea seems to have made its decision from a strategic point of view," he added.
It was certainly proper for the government of President Moon Jae In to rescind its foolish decision to scrap GSOMIA. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that the move by the Moon administration to terminate the intelligence-sharing mechanism has inflicted serious damage on trilateral security cooperation among Japan, the United States, and South Korea, and indeed on the U.S.-South Korea alliance itself.
Pyongyang has ignored calls to denuclearize and continues to launch ballistic missiles. In the meantime, China arrogantly continues its naval expansion. And Russia is stepping up its military activity in the Far East.
Repairing the Damage to the Alliances
Rebuilding effective security cooperation among Japan, the United States, and South Korea, as well as the Washington-Seoul alliance, is a matter of great urgency.
In order for this reconstruction process to be effective, President Moon himself must reflect deeply on his erroneous stance of emphasizing emotional anti-Japanese rhetoric above protection of the security of his own country and the Northeast Asian region. Instead, he should shift to championing true cooperation with Japan and the United States.
The Moon administration had previously taken the position that it would terminate GSOMIA unless Japan removed the more stringent curbs it had imposed on the export of sensitive items to South Korea, emphasizing that it was a bilateral Japan-South Korea issue only. In fact, Chung Eui Yong, director of South Korea’s National Security Office, had gone so far as to say, “This has nothing to do with the United States-South Korea alliance.”
The truth, however, is that GSOMIA plays a vital role in strengthening the deterrence roles played by the respective alliances of Japan and the United States, and of the U.S. and South Korea. The absence of a mechanism for sharing military information between Japan and South Korea would have created obstacles, hindering the force readiness posture of the U.S. military in the event of a crisis in the Northeast Asia region.
This is why Washington strongly pressed the Moon administration to reverse its position on withdrawal from GSOMIA, arguing that eliminating bilateral Japan-South Korea information sharing arrangement would only please Pyongyang, Beijing, and Moscow.
Seoul Must Quickly Resolve Its Violation of International Law
The tightened controls on the export of certain sensitive materials from Japan was necessary in order to prevent them from being diverted for uses prohibited under international law. The existence of these protections is not something that is negotiable.
If Seoul is dissatisfied with the status quo, it should welcome a policy dialogue to explain the measures it proposes to remedy the deficiencies within it current export regime.
As Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi has pointed out, the greatest issue outstanding between Japan and South Korea is the decision of a South Korean court on the “forced laborers” question, which clearly runs counter to international law. The Moon administration needs to quickly resolve this problem.
(Click here to read the editorial in Japanese.)
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Author: The Sankei Shimbun Editorial Board