The South Korean administration under President Moon Jae-in has announced it will abrogate the general security of military information agreement (GSOMIA) with Japan ahead of the Aug. 24 deadline for deciding whether to continue the pact.
With this, Japan and South Korea will no longer have a framework for exchanging sensitive military intelligence, including that on North Korean launches of ballistic missiles.
The GSOMIA has helped to enhance the deterrence of the U.S.-Japan and U.S.-ROK alliances under the initiative of the United States. It has also served as a foundation for security cooperation between the three nations.
The termination of the pact runs counter to the efforts to urge North Korea to relinquish its nuclear and missile programs. This foolish move will be a boon to North Korea and China, nations that are hoping to destabilize the United States’ alliances with Japan and South Korea. This is very regrettable. It is no wonder that the Japanese government lodged a protest with the Moon administration.
The Moon administration must rethink its decision and renew the pact if it intends to live up to its responsibility for security in Northeast Asia.
The GSOMIA was signed in November 2016 during the era of the Park Geun-hye administration in South Korea. It was formed because the Japanese and South Korean governments deemed it necessary for the safety of their people and the strengthening of their alliance with the United States. Since that time, Japan and South Korea have continued to exchange sensitive information based on the GSOMIA as North Korea has persisted in launching missiles and engaging in other provocative actions.
The Japanese government urged the Moon administration not to abrogate the agreement, saying, “[The pact] is beneficial for both our nations and it would be desirable to extend the agreement so our two nations can continue to exchange information.” U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other U.S. officials have expressed similar sentiments as the United States also values the GSOMIA.
A top official at the Blue House said South Korea abrogated the agreement because Japan removed South Korea from its “white list” of countries receiving preferential treatment in trade and Japan’s action constituted a grave change in the environment for security cooperation.
This is not a rational reason for abrogating the agreement. Japan beefed up export controls on South Korea because it could not eliminate its concerns that Japanese products were being illegally diverted for use in weapons. If South Korea would like to receive preferential treatment, it simply needs to take concrete action to regain Japan’s trust.
Isn’t South Korea simply reacting emotionally? South Korea’s unilaterally abrogating the GSOMIA only further increases Japan’s security concerns regarding South Korea.
The setback in Japan-South Korea relations overall, including security, will not be the only result of South Korea’s decision. The U.S. protects South Korea from North Korea and its nuclear weapons, and yet the Moon administration also ignored urging by its ally. The U.S. government is disappointed, and a rift could develop in the U.S.-South Korea alliance. Japan needs to make preparations for growing instability on the Korean peninsula.