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Editorial: South Korea must reverse its decision to scrap GSOMIA

  • November 16, 2019
  • , Sankei , p. 2
  • JMH Translation

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper called on South Korea to keep the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with Japan, which it has decided to terminate, when he met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, South Korean Minister of National Defense Jeong Kyeong-doo and other key officials in Seoul, but the South Korean side did not accommodate the request.


GSOMIA will expire at twelve midnight on Nov. 23. The U.S. has sent Mark Milley, the country’s top military officer and chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, Assistant Secretary of State David Stilwell and other officials to convince South Korea to maintain the intelligence-sharing accord.


South Korean Minister of National Defense Jeong noted at a press conference held after his meeting with Esper that GSOMIA should be renewed. But he maintained the country’s conventional stance that South Korea will not review its decision to terminate GSOMIA unless Japan drops its stricter controls on South Korea-bound goods. President Moon also indicated that it is difficult to share military intelligence with Japan, which has ramped up its export controls on South Korea.


The way they acted is extremely regrettable. Linking GSOMIA with the export control issue does not make sense. South Korea should maintain GSOMIA without preconditions.


The abrogation of GSOMIA is an act of idiocy as it will drastically water down the security cooperation between Japan, the U.S. and South Korea and aggravate the security environment surrounding Northeast Asia.  Robert Abrams, the chief commander of the U.S. Forces in South Korea, issued an unarguable warning to South Korea: “There is a risk of sending a wrong message that perhaps we are not as strong.”


GSOMIA, which serves as a platform for Japan and South Korea to share classified military intelligence, has linked the Japan-U.S. alliance with that of the U.S. and South Korea. If the accord is rescinded, cooperation between Japan, the U.S. and South Korea, which has acted as a counterweight to regional threats, such as North Korea, China and Russia, will wither.


South Korea’s August announcement of its decision to terminate GSOMIA spurred the North to test short-range ballistic missiles. In its talks with the U.S., it has become emboldened in pressing the U.S. to abolish U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises and lift economic sanctions. Meanwhile, China and Russia conducted a large joint military exercise in September.


Former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton pointed out that South Korea’s announcement of GSOMIA abrogation was a “clear blow to the U.S. capability to collaborate with its allies.”


The termination of GSOMIA would harm the U.S.’s capability to rapidly respond to contingencies in the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia. It would drive a wedge in the U.S.-South Korea alliance. Meanwhile, China, which wants to remove the U.S. from the region, would be pleased by the termination and would use a carrot-and-stick approach with South Korea to extinguish the U.S.-South Korea alliance.  

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