Crit­i­cism grows over US press­ing Seoul on GSOMIA

Dead­line for bi­lat­eral in­tel pact looms

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Jung Da-min, Kim Yoo-chul [email protected]­re­atimes.co.kr, [email protected]­re­atimes.co.kr

Crit­i­cism is grow­ing over Wash­ing­ton’s pres­sure on Seoul to re­new a bi­lat­eral in­tel­li­gence-shar­ing pact with Ja­pan, as Seoul and Tokyo re­main re­luc­tant to back down in their on­go­ing diplo­matic spat.

Ahead of the of­fi­cial dead­line to re­new the Gen­eral Se­cu­rity of Mil­i­tary In­for­ma­tion Agree­ment (GSOMIA) on Nov. 23, se­nior U.S. govern­ment of­fi­cials met with pres­i­den­tial aides, law­mak­ers and high-rank­ing govern­ment of­fi­cials and asked them to re­new the pact.

Seoul’s de­ci­sion to ter­mi­nate the pact fol­lowed Ja­pan’s “re­tal­ia­tory” trade re­stric­tions against the South Korean Supreme Court’s or­der last year or­der­ing some Ja­panese firms to com­pen­sate sur­viv­ing South Korean vic­tims of forced la­bor dur­ing the 1910-45 Ja­panese oc­cu­pa­tion of the Korean Penin­sula.

“What makes the sit­u­a­tion worse is that Wash­ing­ton is mov­ing ac­tively to de­fend its na­tional in­ter­est. Given the decades-long mil­i­tary al­liance be­tween Seoul and Wash­ing­ton, the U.S.’ press­ing Seoul over GSOMIA and de­fense-cost shar­ing is­sues will dam­age the al­liance. Whether or not to ex­tend the GSOMIA is ac­tu­ally an is­sue of mu­tual trust,” a se­nior law­maker at the rul­ing Demo­cratic Party of Korea (DPK) told The Korea Times. He added Seoul wants a health­ier re­la­tion­ship with Ja­pan.

“Be­fore the GSOMIA dead­line, it’s not too late for Seoul to re­verse course. Be­fore ap­ply­ing an exit strat­egy, Ja­pan and the United States should send a mes­sage to Seoul that the ex­ten­sion will help South Korea ad­dress the cur­rent Seoul-Tokyo feud,” the law­maker said by tele­phone.

Pres­i­den­tial aides said the GSOMIA will be re­placed with the 2014

Tri­lat­eral In­for­ma­tion-Shar­ing Ar­range­ment (TISA), which en­ables Seoul and Tokyo to pass in­for­ma­tion to each other through the U.S. as an in­ter­me­di­ary.

On Sun­day, Pres­i­dent Moon will meet the chiefs of the ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties at Cheong Wa Dae to dis­cuss key pend­ing is­sues. The South Korean leader is ex­pected to hold re­view ses­sions over the GSOMIA and de­fense cost-shar­ing is­sues, party sources said.

Esper’s visit

U.S. De­fense Sec­re­tary Mark Esper is ex­pected ask his South Korean coun­ter­part Jeong Kyeong-doo to ex­tend the GSOMIA dur­ing his stay in Seoul, next week. The 51st Spe­cial Con­sul­ta­tive Meet­ing (SCM) will be held Nov. 15 at the min­istry’s Yongsan head­quar­ters.

The de­fense min­istry said the GSOMIA is­sue will be touched upon but re­it­er­ated the South Korean govern­ment’s po­si­tion by say­ing no ex­ten­sion will come un­less Ja­pan first with­draws trade re­stric­tions against South Korea.

U.S. De­part­ment of De­fense spokesman Jonathan Hoff­man told re­porters in a reg­u­lar brief­ing, Fri­day morn­ing (KST), that Esper will “ad­dress the GSOMIA is­sue” dur­ing his trip to Seoul. Hoff­man said the U.S. is “hope­ful” and “op­ti­mistic” over the mat­ter and will “con­tinue to push on.”

“It’s some­thing that we would like to see re­solved, so that all of us can fo­cus on the big­gest threats in the re­gion, which is North Korea’s ac­tiv­i­ties and then the Chi­nese ef­forts to desta­bi­lize the re­gion,” Hoff­man said.

The Korea-U.S. de­fense cost-shar­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions will also be dis­cussed dur­ing next week’s SCM. Seoul’s de­fense min­istry said it would tell the U.S. that the cost-shar­ing is­sue should be set­tled at a level that is “rea­son­able and eq­ui­table,” if the is­sue is brought into the dis­cus­sions.

While the U.S. is ru­mored to have asked the South Korean side to pay about $5 bil­lion (5.8 tril­lion won), pub­lic opinion is against such a “steep” in­crease, with civil or­ga­ni­za­tions stag­ing protests against the U.S. re­quest. De­fense chiefs also plan to talk about the specifics of pos­si­ble three-way talks in­volv­ing Ja­panese De­fense Min­is­ter Taro Kono dur­ing the up­com­ing Meet­ing Plus (ADMM-Plus) meet­ing to be held in Bangkok, Thai­land, just a few days be­fore the of­fi­cial end­ing of the GSOMIA.

Other is­sues sur­round­ing the al­liance be­tween the two coun­tries will be dis­cussed dur­ing the SCM, in­clud­ing the con­di­tions-based trans­fer of wartime op­er­a­tional con­trol (OPCON), the re­turn of U.S. mil­i­tary bases to South Korea and se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion in the fu­ture.

The Mil­i­tary Com­mit­tee Meet­ing (MCM), a meet­ing be­tween the chair­men of the South Korean and U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, would come a day be­fore the SCM, the min­istry said.

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