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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Nov. 28)

All Headlines 07:22 November 28, 2019

'Truth game' won't work
Japan should be sincere in dialogue with Korea

The latest squabble between Seoul and Tokyo over an agreement on keeping a military intelligence-sharing pact alive does not bode well for their efforts to find a negotiated solution to an ongoing trade and diplomatic row. It has made South Koreans question if Japan is ready to resume dialogue to discuss a potential exit from the dispute.

The squabble resembled a "truth game." It started last Friday when the Moon Jae-in government announced a conditional and temporary extension of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA). The announcement came only six hours before the expiration of the pact.

Japan should realize that the truth game will not work to resolve the problem, and so should be sincere and act in good faith in dialogue with Korea.

Seoul became baffled with some Japanese media reports on the two countries' deal on the GSOMIA extension one hour before the official joint announcement set for 6 p.m. The Korean side suspected Tokyo officials of leaking information on the deal to their local media in advance. The Japanese government also invited criticism for announcing the deal several minutes later.

Adding insult to injury, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was quoted as saying that his government has made no single concession on the trade issue. Japanese officials also reportedly made controversial remarks that South Korea yielded to U.S. pressure, and that Tokyo had won a diplomatic victory. Some news outlets there even described the deal as a "perfect game."

The Moon administration strongly denounced Tokyo for making a "distorted" announcement on the issue. Chung Eui-yong, director of the presidential National Security Office (NSO), said Sunday that the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry intentionally distorted or exaggerated the content of the deal. He made it clear that Seoul filed a formal complaint with Tokyo and the latter offered an apology.

The problem is that a Japanese official denied what Chung said, arguing that there was no apology. In response, Yoon Do-han, senior presidential secretary for public communications, issued a statement Monday reaffirming that Tokyo apologized after Seoul made a complaint about Japan's distorted announcement. It is regrettable that the Abe administration was engaged in a dirty play over Seoul's decision to renew the GSOMIA conditionally.

Tokyo seemed to be trying to make the deal with Seoul appear more favorable to its side. Nevertheless, Abe and his officials went so far as to distort and exaggerate the deal. Their behavior was, no doubt, undiplomatic and detrimental to mutual trust with Korea. We urge Japan to make efforts to prevent such a thing happening again.

For its part, Korea needs to deal with Japan more carefully and meticulously so that it can avoid any unnecessary quarrels down the road. The incident should not negatively affect working-level negotiations to narrow differences over the trade dispute apparently caused by a legal ruling on a wartime forced labor issue. The two sides must work together to realize a summit between Moon and Abe next month when they are scheduled to meet during a three-way summit between Korea, Japan and China.

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