Japan-S. Korea rift remains open as GSOMIA expiration nears

18-Nov-2019 Intellasia | JapanNews | 8:14 AM Print This Post

South Korea on Friday again stressed the withdrawal of Japan’s strict export controls to the country as a condition for the continuation of the GSOMIA bilateral military intelligence-sharing agreement, leaving the rift between the two countries open as the expiration of the pact nears.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Defense minister Jeong Kyeong-doo expressed Seoul’s unchanged stance on the GSOMIA, or general Security of Military Information Agreement, after meeting with US Defense Secretary Mark Esper in Seoul on Friday.

The Japanese government plans to maintain the export controls, and thus South Korea will most likely have to reach a conclusion on the matter without being able to obtain any concessions from Tokyo.

At a press conference after the US-South Korea Security Consultative Meeting on Friday, Jeong stressed that “there’s still some time left” until the November 23 expiration of the GSOMIA and said, “It will be nice if the Japanese and South Korean governments can hold discussions in a positive direction and maintain the GSOMIA.”

Jeong added, saying, “I have also asked Esper to press Japan to make active efforts [for the matter],” expressing hopes that the United States will work with Japan.

However, Esper only said at the press conference, “We have urged all sides to sit down to work out their differences.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga expressed Tokyo’s maintained stance and said at a press conference Monday that the continuation of the GSOMIA and withdrawal of the tightened export controls are “issues of completely different dimensions, and thus South Korea’s claim cannot be accepted.”

At Friday’s press conference in Seoul, Jeong also restated his position, saying, “I have stressed the importance of the GSOMIA and security cooperation among Japan, the United States and South Korea through my answers to questions in the National Assembly.”

Within the South Korean government, two groups are seemingly in conflict with each other over the GSOMIA issue. One, led by Jeong and others who place priority on the US-South Korea alliance, insists on the continuation of the pact, while the other, led by deputy National Security Advisor Kim Hyun Chong among other hardliners against Japan and the United States, backs the cancellation of the pact as scheduled.

The United States and South Korea are negotiating over Seoul’s share of the cost of stationing US forces in the country, and the US side is said to be demanding that the share be increased to about five times this fiscal year’s 1.389 trillion won (about JPY 96 billion).

Esper said at Friday’s press conference that South Korea is “a wealthy country,” so it should pay more. Some say that if Seoul lets the GSOMIA expire, it will be put in a difficult position over the cost-sharing negotiations with the United States.

As the United States mounts pressure for keeping the GSOMIA alive, there has been a compromise plan on the table, under which Japan and South Korea will not exchange military information for the time being while maintaining the GSOMIA, according to sources familiar with negotiations among Japan, the United States and South Korea.

According to a nationwide public opinion survey conducted on November 8 and 9 by Korea Research International Inc., 52.1 percent of 1,006 respondents in South Korea said the GSOMIA should be scrapped as planned, while 37.5 percent answered the opposite.



Category: Japan

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