All national papers reported from Seoul on Assistant Secretary of State Stilwell’s meetings on Wednesday with several high-ranking ROK officials, including Foreign Minister Kang. The dailies speculated that the U.S. diplomat probably pressed them not to terminate the GSOMIA defense intelligence sharing pact with Japan, with Nikkei’s headline reading: “Senior U.S. official applies pressure on South Korean foreign minister.” The business daily said A/S Stilwell also held talks with a senior Blue House official who allegedly campaigned hard within the ROK government for the termination of the defense data sharing arrangement. According to a Blue House press release, the two officials held “concrete, productive, and future-oriented consultations” on the subject. While quoting the same announcement as saying that the two partners agreed to continue discussions in order to resolve outstanding issues in a future-oriented manner, Sankei conjectured that they apparently failed to narrow the gap on GSOMIA.
Yomiuri cited a report by South Korean paper Dong-a Ilbo claiming that senior intelligence officials of the U.S., Japan, and South Korea gathered in Washington recently to hold intensive discussions on GSOMIA. Noting that DOS Senior Advisor for Security Negotiations and Agreements James DeHart accompanied A/S Stilwell at the session, the ROK paper speculated that the presence of the lead U.S. negotiator for host nation support talks with South Korea signified Washington’s intention to press Seoul to take on a much larger share of the cost of hosting U.S. troops unless it maintains the defense data sharing arrangement with Tokyo. Yomiuri and Nikkei speculated that amid U.S. pressure, some senor ROK officials may now be hinting at renewing the ROK-Japan pact on the condition that Tokyo eases its export control over certain Korea-bound products.