Ending GSOMIA could send ‘wrong message’ to neighbouring countries: CFC chief

14-Nov-2019 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

South Korea ending a military intelligence pact with Japan bears the “risk of sending the wrong message” to neighbouring countries including North Korea, China and Russia that the trilateral alliance among Seoul, Tokyo and Washington is not as strong in keeping the regional security order, Gen. Robert Abrams, commander of the United Nations Command (UNC), US-South Korea Combined Forces Command (CFC) and the United States Forces Korea (USFK) said Tuesday.

Abrams was speaking during an interview with foreign and local reporters at the headquarters of the CFC at United States Army Garrison (USAG) Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, about 10 days ahead of the deadline for renewing the general Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) between Seoul and Tokyo.

“The fundamental principle of the intelligence-sharing agreement was a clear message to the region that the ROK (Republic of Korea) and Japan put aside perhaps the historical differences and put at the forefront stability and security of the region, because together we are much strong in providing for a stable and secure Northeast Asia,” Abrams said. “And without that, there is a risk of sending the wrong message that perhaps we are not as strong.”

Gen. Robert Abrams, commander of the U.S.-South Korea Combined Forces Command (CFC), the United States Forces Korea (USFK) and the United Nations Command (UNC), delivers a commemorative speech during a ceremony celebrating the 41st anniversary of the CFC, Nov. 7, at the U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Gen. Robert Abrams, commander of the U.S.-South Korea Combined Forces Command (CFC), the United States Forces Korea (USFK) and the United Nations Command (UNC), delivers a commemorative speech during a ceremony celebrating the 41st anniversary of the CFC, Nov. 7, at the U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan in Seoul. (Yonhap)

The conflict started last year after the South Korean Supreme Court ordered Japanese firms to compensate surviving South Koreans forced to work for them during the 1910-45 Japanese occupation of the Korean Peninsula. The Japanese government removed South Korea from its list of countries receiving preferential trade treatment in early August in an apparent retaliatory move. Prior to this, it placed restrictions on the export to South Korean firms of three resource materials for the manufacture of semiconductors and display panels. In response, the South Korean government removed Japan from its preferential trade list and later that month announced it would not renew the GSOMIA, with the pact ending November 22.

The diplomatic and security conflict between the two countries has also put the United States’ regional security policy at risk, weakening the US deterrence against the pseudo alliance of China, Russia and North Korea.

While Washington is stepping up pressure on its two allies to renew the pact, it has faced a backlash from some South Koreans who say the US does not understand the fundamental issue between South Korea and Japan.

Adding to the “anti-US” sentiment is the ongoing negotiations for the cost-sharing for the stationing of the USFK in Korea, which face a end of the year deadline for the so-called 11th Special Measures Agreement (SMA).

The USFK chief said media reports about the cost-sharing negotiations were not providing appropriate or full details of the talks as they are still ongoing and the public, accordingly, are not being “well-informed.”

“I think that we collectively, both the Korean and the US sides, and clearly the taxpayers, know what it is that we are talking about here. So that it can be informed. I think right now, a lot of the commentary is not informed,” Abrams said. “But again, that’s for the Department of State and on the Korean side, the lead negotiator and his team and fundamentally the government’s job to explain.”

The US general also said that much of the costs taxpayers here pay for the upkeep of the 28,500 USFK troops are used for the South Koreans’ own good.

Abrams said the SMA funds do “three” good things for South Korean people as well as the USFK troops. These are the payment from the funds of 75 percent of the salaries of the 9,200 Korean nationals who are civilian employees of the USFK; logistics support provided by the USFK; and the use of SMA funds to improve old facilities or build new ones that provide better-readiness platforms for the USFK but that ultimately provide returns for the Korean economy.

Abrams also denied media reports on a US request to revise a crisis management memorandum between the allies to expand the scope of “contingency situations on the Korean Peninsula” to also include those “of the US”

“I have first-person knowledge of the document, I have first-person knowledge of what has been discussed, and that is flat not true,” Abrams said. “It would be completely inappropriate for a crisis management memorandum of agreement to expand beyond the Korean Peninsula because the document is to provide the government instruction for how we deal with a crisis on the Korean Peninsula.”

Abrams also said the two allies are having working-level discussions to on the next version of the document and it would be a problem if someone was leaking elements of a classified document to the media.

“But I can tell you, zero. Zero truth, zero anything. It’s not even a misunderstanding or a translation error, which sometimes happens,” he said.

On the transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) from Washington to Seoul, he said the two allies have agreed on a “conditions-based” transfer. Regarding concerns that the CFC after the OPCON transfer would have difficulty in conducting military operations involving capabilities unique to the US, Abrams said the allies have “a mechanism by which to integrate that in such capabilities in the bilateral decision-making process.” He added the same applies for some “Korean-specific capabilities that, today, are not under the command, under the operational control of a US CFC command.”

“There’s a lot of speculation about our relationship. Here’s what I want you to understand. I have the ultimate confidence in the ROK JCS Chair Park Han-ki, he’s a leader of a man’s character and I’ve got a lot of respect for him and his capabilities. And the ROK JCS (Joint Chiefs of Staff) and USFK and CFC, we work very, very, closely together every single day. We are, from a military alliance perspective, we are very, very, tight, and so there’ll always be, if you look at the full arc of the ROK-US alliance. Since 1950 we’ve had our ups and downs historically, and on the backend of the downsides, we always come out stronger and more resilient and tighter. But I have supreme confidence the ROK military leadership will lead us in the future.”



Category: Korea

Print This Post