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Editorial: U.S., Japan, ROK need to rebuild security cooperation

On Nov. 22, the South Korean government informed the Japanese government that it will suspend its termination notice for the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA). GSOMIA was set to expire at 0:00 a.m. on Nov. 23, but the South Korean move automatically extended the agreement for one year, averting the crisis of the pact becoming invalid.


Seoul also suspended the procedures it was taking to file a complaint at the World Trade Organization (WTO) over Japan’s tightening of controls on its South Korea-bound exports due to security concerns. The two governments decided to resume their dialogue on policy.


“Cooperation and coordination on a bilateral basis between Japan and the ROK as well as on a trilateral basis among Japan, the U.S., and the ROK are extremely important to address the North Korea issue,” said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Nov. 22. “Seoul likely made its decision from a strategic point of view.” In this way, Abe gave the ROK’s policy change high marks to some degree.


The Moon administration did the right thing in calling off at the last moment its plan to terminate GSOMIA, which would have been a foolish move. 


However, the Moon administration’s attempts to end the pact have undoubtedly damaged trilateral security cooperation among the United States, Japan, and South Korea and the U.S.-ROK alliance greatly.


North Korea has ignored calls for denuclearization and instead launched ballistic missiles multiple times. China has continued its maritime advancement aggressively. Russia has also stepped up its military operations in the Far East. It is urgently necessary to rebuild effective security cooperation between Washington, Tokyo, and Seoul and the U.S.-ROK alliance.


South Korean President Moon attached more importance to anti-Japan sentiment than to the security of his own country and Northeast Asia. To rebuild the trilateral security cooperation and bilateral alliance [between the U.S. and South Korea], President Moon needs first to thoroughly realize that his stance was misguided and shift to the path of true cooperation with Japan and the U.S.


The Moon administration said it would abrogate GSOMIA unless Japan withdrew its heightened controls on South Korea-bound exports. [South Korea] National Security Office Director Chung Eui-yong commented, “[The termination of GSOMIA] has nothing to do with the U.S.-ROK alliance.”


GSOMIA strengthens the deterrent provided by the Japan-U.S. alliance and the U.S.-ROK alliance, which each has the U.S. as its linchpin. Without a framework of military information sharing between Japan and South Korea, the U.S.’s readiness to respond to a contingency in the Northeast Asian region would be undermined. That is exactly why the U.S. government strongly urged the Moon administration to change its stance, saying, “The only ones who would benefit from [the termination of GSOMIA] are China and North Korea.”


Japan tightened its export controls to prevent its exported products from being diverted into weapons development. The pros and cons of the measure are not something for Japan and South Korea to discuss. If the ROK is frustrated by the measure, it should concretely explain through policy dialogues with Japan how it will rectify the faults in its system.


As Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi pointed out, the largest issue between Japan and South Korea is the violation of international law by the ROK rulings on the “requisitioned workers.” The Moon administration must also swiftly resolve this issue.

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