National security advisor says GSOMIA will be terminated unless Japan withdraws export controls

Posted on : 2019-11-11 17:55 KST Modified on : 2019-11-11 17:55 KST
Chung Eui-yong says Tokyo is “fundamentally to blame” for current chill in diplomatic relations
Presidential Chief of Staff Noh Young-min (left), National Security Office Director Chung Eui-yong (center), and Chief Policy Secretary Kim Sang-jo (right) hold a press conference at the Blue House on Nov. 10. (Kim Jung-hyo, staff photographer)
Presidential Chief of Staff Noh Young-min (left), National Security Office Director Chung Eui-yong (center), and Chief Policy Secretary Kim Sang-jo (right) hold a press conference at the Blue House on Nov. 10. (Kim Jung-hyo, staff photographer)

South Korea’s national security advisor commented publicly about South Korea and Japan’s General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which is scheduled to be terminated at 12:01 am on Nov. 23.

“GSOMIA is an issue for South Korea and Japan to resolve, an issue that’s completely unrelated to the South Korea-US alliance. If South Korea-Japan relations are normalized, the South Korean government is willing to consider extending GSOMIA,” said Chung Eui-Yong, director of the Blue House National Security Office.

Chung made the remarks about GSOMIA during a press conference held on Sunday afternoon at the Blue House press room with two other key advisors for the South Korean president: Chief of Staff Noh Young-min and Chief Policy Secretary Kim Sang-jo.

Chung reiterated the government’s official position on the matter. “South Korea and Japan are close neighbors and partners who cooperate to maintain peace and stability of Northeast Asia. But from our perspective, Japan is fundamentally to blame for the recent difficulties in our bilateral relations,” Chung said.

“Considering that Japan announced that it was imposing export controls [on South Korea] because it had lost confidence in security cooperation, I think the Korean public will understand that we can’t extend GSOMIA under these circumstances.”

“We haven’t completely ended military information exchange with Japan. In fact, this has a limited impact on security,” Chung added.

Amid speculation that GSOMIA’s termination might be delayed amid growing pressure from the US to extend the agreement, Chung’s remarks reaffirm Seoul’s position that the Japanese government is behind the downturn in the two countries’ relations and that Japan has to lift its export controls before Seoul considers reviewing a GSOMIA extension.

Even while asserting that the GSOMIA’s termination won’t harm the South Korea-US alliance, Chung did encourage the US to play a role in mediating the dispute between South Korea and Japan. “The South Korean government would welcome any form of cooperation that the US might provide on the grounds that South Korea and Japan are important allies.”

Noh Young-min, the presidential chief of staff, spoke about inter-Korean relations and the North Korea-US negotiations. “Without an improvement in inter-Korean relations, it would be difficult to achieve major progress in the denuclearization talks aimed at bringing peace to the Korean Peninsula. We continue to review practical methods of achieving meaningful progress in inter-Korean relations,” he said.

“The government will continue trying to help the North Korea-US negotiations get quick results. Its efforts include engineering a meaningful improvement in inter-Korean relations,” Noh underlined, without offering any details about what those “practical methods” might be.

Chung on N. Korea’s plans to demolish Mt. Kumgang facilities

Chung also addressed North Korea’s plans to demolish South Korean facilities at the Mt. Kumgang tourist resort. “Since the facilities were built when the Mt. Kumgang tourism project was initiated [in 1998], the facilities are very run-down. In order to relaunch tourism, we believe it would be necessary for some maintenance [including demolition and renovation] to take place,” Chung said.

Chung’s remarks imply that some of the facilities at the resort might be torn down with the goal of resuming tourism to the complex. That’s in line with government plans hitherto announced by Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul and others.

S. Korea’s role in N. Korea-US denuclearization negotiations

Chung also said that Seoul takes North Korea’s unilateral declaration of an end-of-the-year deadline for its negotiations with the US “very seriously” and that it’s “preparing for several contingencies.”

“Several discussions are underway based on the idea that we mustn’t return to the situation in 2017,” Chung said, referring to a time when there were serious concerns about a military crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

“I’m told that the Americans are working very aggressively to convince North Korea to return to the working-level negotiations, but it’s too soon to say when they might resume.”

“There will need to be significant progress in the [North Korea-US] denuclearization negotiations at both the technical and senior level before a third North Korea-US summit can be held,” the advisor added.

Chung was also asked during the press conference whether he thinks that South Korea should take part in the US’ Indo-Pacific strategy as the US and China’s hegemonic rivalry intensifies. “We need to take full advantage of the Korean Peninsula’s geopolitical position in our security policy.

South Korea has a big role to play in the clash between continental powers and maritime powers,” he said.

By Park Min-hee, staff reporter, and Lee Je-hun, senior staff writer

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