In an escalation of its bitter dispute with Japan, South Korea decided Thursday to scrap a military intelligence sharing agreement with Tokyo, opening a new divide in trilateral security cooperation between the U.S., Japan, and South Korea.
South Korea’s presidential Blue House said Thursday it is not in its national interest to continue a deal signed for the purpose of exchanging sensitive military information with Japan. Seoul will inform Tokyo of its decision before the Saturday deadline to renew the General Security of Military Information Agreement, or GISOMIA, the South Korean statement said.
The decision will worsen tensions between South Korea and Japan, who are involved in a dispute rooted in Japan’s use of forced labor during its colonial occupation of Korea. The move also threatens to further upend security cooperation on U.S. priorities such as North Korea and China.
In announcing its decision, South Korea cited Japan’s recent decision to remove Seoul from its list of trusted trade partners. "The rationale was that a national security problem had arisen due to a breach of trust, yet no concrete evidence to support those allegations was presented," the Blue House statement said. "Under these circumstances, the Government of the Republic of Korea decided that maintaining this Agreement, which was signed to facilitate the exchange of sensitive military information, does not serve our national interest," it added.
The General Security of Military Information Agreement, or GSOMIA, was signed in November 2016.
“I hope there is no impact on policies but there will be an impact on military and intelligence operations,” says David Maxwell, a former U.S. special forces colonel in the U.S. Army, who served in South Korea. “Information will be shared through the US middle man unless South Korea or Japan makes the situation worse by adding caveats such as the information they provide cannot be shared with a third party.”
South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said the decision to withdraw from GSOMIA is a “separate issue from the South Korea-U.S. alliance,” according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency. The decision, she says, was made due to a “trust issue” between Seoul and Tokyo, Yonhap reported.
But the move cannot be separated from Seoul’s alliance with Washington, insists Maxwell, now with the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “It damages the national security of all three countries though South Korea suffers the worst,” he said.
The U.S. military did not immediately respond to VOA requests for comment.
Source : VOA