Pentagon official urges Seoul to reconsider termination of intel agreement with Tokyo

by WorldTribune Staff, October 3, 2019

The United States has asked South Korea to reconsider its rushed termination of a military intelligence sharing pact with Japan that rocked the regional alliance against China and North Korea.

John Rood, U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, called on Seoul to renew the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with Tokyo as it was “indispensable” in countering North Korea’s threats and China’s growing influence.

U.S. Defense Undersecretary for Policy John Rood. / C-SPAN

In August, South Korea’s leftist government notified Japan it was terminating the bilateral pact, which will expire in November, amid disputes over wartime issues and trade.

Speaking at a forum hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on Oct. 2, Rood said Washington will “take a bigger role” if needed, saying defense and security ties with Seoul and Tokyo “must persist” despite the nations’ growing disputes in other areas.

Related: Seoul scraps intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo in blow to U.S. alliance, August 23, 2019

The Moon Jae-In administration’s decision to terminate the intelligence-sharing pact should have been made after more careful consideration, as the move has ended up heightening political and security uncertainty in Northeast Asia, Rood said.

Park Won-Gon, an international relations professor at Handong Global University, agreed, saying: “It is hard for me to understand why the government did not set a deadline for Japan to respond before making the abrupt decision. The decision to nullify the GSOMIA must have perplexed Japan and even the U.S.”

Ending the agreement was a blow to Washington’s efforts to monitor North Korean activities, Rood added.

Seoul terminated the GSOMIA while demanding Tokyo accept rulings by South Korea’s top court ordering Japanese firms to compensate Koreans for forced labor during World War II.

While South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did not meet at the recent UN General Assembly, the foreign ministers of the two countries did meet, but reportedly failed to narrow their differences over issues dividing the two sides.

Moon didn’t raise the issue of extending the military pact when he met with U.S. President Donald Trump last week at the UN.

South Korean officials said the renewal of the GSOMIA would only be possible if Japan “fully respects” a South Korean court’s decision and expresses its willingness to address historical issues through open and candid dialogue.

Rood also said at the CSIS forum that the United States has no plans to dispatch nuclear weapons to South Korea, refuting concerns that Washington might ask either the South or Japan to host mid-range nuclear missiles.

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