‘GSOMIA termination may face US backlash’

06-Aug-2020 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

In response to envisaged retaliation from Japan over the possible liquidation of a Japanese company’s assets here, the government has once again threatened to terminate their bilateral intelligence-sharing pact.

Some experts are raising doubts over the effectiveness of such a strategy, saying that Korea may face a much stronger backlash from the United States, which values the general Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) as a tool to contain China’s growing influence in Asia.

Bracing for retaliatory measures from Tokyo, angered by the Korean Supreme Court-ordered sale of assets of Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal to provide compensation to Korean victims forced to work for it before and during World War II, Seoul is considering countering them by cancelling the GSOMIA in a tit-for-tat move.

“On November 22 last year, our government suspended its decision to end the GSOMIA on the premise that it can end the pact anytime,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Kim In-chul said, Tuesday. “The concept of extending the pact every year no longer applies.”

Kim responded to a question of whether the government should inform Japan by August 23 of its intent to end the GSOMIA, and his remarks are seen as an indication that Seoul is considering terminating the pact if Tokyo takes any retaliatory action.

The GSOMIA, signed on November 23, 2016, is automatically renewed every year unless one country notifies the other of its decision to end the deal 90 days in advance.

“It would be a daunting task for the Korean government to practically cancel the GSOMIA due to possible opposition from the US government,” said Park Won-gon, a professor of international politics at Handong Global University.

“Amid an escalating Sino-US diplomatic row, Washington wants to present a united front with Korea and Japan against China, but under the circumstance, Korea’s GSOMIA termination may bring about a fiercer backlash from the US government than last year.”

In the wake of Japan’s export restrictions on key resources imported by Korean firms over the forced labour issue in 2019, the Moon Jae-in administration came near to ending then three-year-old accord, but strong pressure from Washington prevented Seoul from doing so at the last minute.

“When the Korean government threatened to end the pact, almost everyone in the US government except for US President Donald Trump pressed Korea to reverse its decision. Considering the current situation of the US, Korea could face a similar situation or an even tougher one,” he said.

Leif-Eric Easley, an associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University, agreed saying terminating the GSOMIA would not work in Korea’s favour.

“Threatening to cancel GSOMIA provides no negotiating leverage with Japan, but instead damages Seoul’s credibility because it reflects a fundamental misreading of the strategic environment. The move would unnecessarily reduce South Korea’s capabilities, seriously damage its standing in Washington, and embolden Pyongyang, Beijing and Moscow to employ greater coercion against Seoul,” he said.

“So pulling out of the intelligence sharing pact would accomplish nothing other than emotional gratification in domestic politics, but even that would be short-lived because the dream of decoupling from Japan is unrealistic.”



Category: Korea

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