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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Nov. 22)

Editorials from Korean Dailies 07:00 November 22, 2019

Are we prepared?

The Moon Jae-in administration reportedly has decided to withdraw from the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with Japan at 12 a.m. on Saturday as scheduled. Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said Thursday that the bilateral military pact will be terminated by the deadline unless Japan ends its export restrictions on Korea. With the clock ticking, we hope both sides find a breakthrough before it is too late.

But our government is not likely to reverse its decision given its earlier notification of the ending of the pact to Tokyo and the remarks President Moon Jae-in made during a town hall meeting on Tuesday. "South Korea will continue security cooperation with Japan even if Gsomia is canceled," he said. If so, the government must prepare effective measures to ease deepening military and diplomatic concerns.

The biggest concern is deterioration of our relations with the United States. Washington regards Gsomia as a barometer of the Korea-U.S. alliance. Therefore, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other top brass of the U.S. military urged Seoul to maintain Gsomia. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch even proposed a bill urging cancellation of the ending of Gsomia, saying a schism between Seoul and Tokyo will only help America's enemies. If South Korea really withdraws from the pact, a sense of betrayal will spread in Washington.

Considering a reported notion in Washington of reducing the size of U.S. troops in Korea by 4,000, the U.S. government will likely consider such an option and pressure South Korea to join the U.S.-led missile defense system. We cannot rule out the possibility of Washington demanding Korea import more of its cars and a cooling off of our rapprochement with North Korea.

Termination of Gsomia will hurt our security. Despite the government's denial of risks, the situation is dangerous. North Korea has at least 60 nuclear warheads and succeeded in testing submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

In such a volatile situation, information sharing between Seoul and Tokyo is necessary to detect North Korean missiles. If Gsomia comes to an end, Washington will have to separately collect military information from them, which creates many loopholes in the combined security network. If security risks are increasing, international trust will be damaged. The government must establish efficient countermeasures if it withdraws from Gsomia. The best option would be not to.
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