The Korea Herald


Yoon says will ‘completely normalize’ military intelligence-sharing pact

By Ji Da-gyum

Published : March 16, 2023 - 19:54

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President Yoon Suk Yeol (L) speaks during a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida after their summit in Tokyo on March 16, 2023. (Yonhap) President Yoon Suk Yeol (L) speaks during a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida after their summit in Tokyo on March 16, 2023. (Yonhap)
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Thursday said he has pledged to “normalize” the military intelligence-sharing pact between South Korea and Japan during the summit meeting with his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida. The pact had been enmeshed in trade and historic disputes.

Yoon said he “pronounced the complete normalization” of the General Security of Military Information Agreement, or GSOMIA, during his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Kishida in Tokyo, as a way to step up the two countries' security cooperation.

“Through the process, the two countries should be able to share information on North Korea’s missile projectiles and jointly respond to missile launches,” Yoon said during a joint news conference following the summit.

Thursday’s announcement came as the two countries seek to improve bilateral relations in the wake of South Korea’s initiative to compensate wartime forced labor through a Seoul-backed public foundation. The Yoon Suk Yeol government has said that fence-mending with Japan is indispensable for bilateral and trilateral security cooperation.

The normalization of GSOMIA is considered by the administration as an essential part of enhancing bilateral security cooperation as well as trilateral security cooperation with the US to better address mounting North Korean threats. Yoon and Kishida also agreed to resume bilateral working-level security dialogue that have been suspended since March 2018.

“We also agreed that cooperation between South Korea, the US and Japan, as well as between South Korea and Japan, is very significant in countering advancing nuclear and missile threats from North Korea,” Yoon said, adding that he and Kishida committed to “continuing active cooperation.”

North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile on Thursday morning hours before the summit between Yoon and Kishida, marking its fourth missile launch in eight days since March 9.

Seoul and Tokyo share classified military information under the legally binding GSOMIA, which was sealed in November 2016. But the first bilateral military agreement since the Japanese colonial occupation of the Korean Peninsula ended in 1945 had been adversely affected by perennial disputes over history and trade.

The GSOMIA enables Seoul and Tokyo to directly share confidential military information classified by South Korean law as class-II and class-III military secrets.

The GSOMIA automatically renews every year unless either party notifies its intent to terminate the agreement 90 days in advance before the end of a one-year period.

But the legal status of the GSOMIA had remained uncertain for years as the bilateral relationship between Seoul and Tokyo soured under the liberal Moon Jae-in government.

The Moon government conditionally and tentatively postponed its original decision to end the GSOMIA in November 2019 under US pressure. But it underscored that Seoul can terminate the GSOMIA at any time under the condition.

Seoul’s stance on the GSOMIA was in response to Japan’s decision to exclude South Korea from its whitelist of preferred trading partners and put export restrictions on three critical materials used for the production of semiconductors and digital flat screens. Japan’s export controls were its retribution to the South Korean court ruling in 2018 that ordered two Japanese companies to compensate victims of Japan’s wartime forced labor.

Thursday’s move to normalize the GSOMIA came after Japan announced its decision to lift export curbs of the key materials, hours prior to the summit between Yoon and Kishida.