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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Nov. 15)

Editorials from Korean Dailies 07:08 November 15, 2019

GSOMIA and alliance
Stronger ties impossible without mutual respect

South Korea's senior security officials and diplomats, including Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, are reportedly preparing to visit Washington next week before and after the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), a military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, expires at midnight Nov. 22.

Their visits are to seek U.S. understanding that ending the GSOMIA was an inevitable choice by Seoul as a sovereign nation in the context of its present relations with Tokyo, and to reaffirm its commitment to the U.S. alliance.

It is not hard to imagine how frustrating the expiration is for Washington, which has described the GSOMIA as a symbol of its security cooperation with the two Asian allies. As the crucial date is approaching, there has been pressure from the U.S. on South Korea to reverse its decision not to renew the deal. But it appears that the Moon Jae-in administration is standing firm on this. Seoul is likely to discard the deal as planned unless Japan acts first to scrap its unilateral export restrictions on South Korea.

This is obviously not typical of South Korea, which has been "docile" to the U.S., sometimes putting U.S. interests before its own in handling foreign and security affairs. So there seems to be little argument that the termination of the GSOMIA could be a historic incident that determines the future of this country. It will also have serious ramifications for Seoul's future relations with Washington and Tokyo -- as well as Beijing.

The question is whether Seoul is ready to face the possible consequences.

In fact, the spirit of the Seoul-Washington alliance has been tarnished considerably in recent years since U.S. President Donald Trump took office. There have been many incidents that raise questions as to if he respects Seoul as an ally. He has hurt the pride of South Korea, its leader and people, repeatedly.

So when U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Robert Abrams told reporters Tuesday that terminating the GSOMIA could send the wrong message that the U.S. alliances with South Korea and Japan are not strong enough to ensure security in the region, it seemed to be a willful ignorance of reality. Basically, the GSOMIA, which is only three years old, is a bilateral pact between Seoul and Tokyo, and Seoul now doesn't see it necessary to keep it. Japan described South Korea as a potential risk to its security when it imposed the export restrictions. Is it strange then for Seoul to regard sharing military intelligence with Tokyo as a potential danger to its security?

Abrams said the signing of the GSOMIA gave a clear message to the region that South Korea and Japan had put aside their historical differences and put at the forefront the stability and security of the region.

No. that is not true. Such a deal as the GSOMIA is only a trick as long as the history war between Korea and Japan continues.
(END)

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