Korean, Japanese defence ministers reconfirm differences on Gsomia

Seoul (The Korea Herald/ANN) - The defence ministers of South Korea, Japan and the United States met Sunday to discuss their differences regarding the intelligence-sharing pact between Seoul and Tokyo, amid concerns that the ongoing row might weaken the trilateral security alliance.

South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and his Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, held bilateral talks and met with their US counterpart in a separate trilateral meeting, both of which took place on the sidelines of the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus in Bangkok.

During the bilateral talks, Jeong and Kono reiterated the positions of their respective governments on the General Security of Military Information Agreement, according to Seoul’s Defense Ministry.

Regarding GSOMIA, “we rehashed our positions. What is important is more can be done (on this issue) on the diplomatic side, so I asked to support the diplomatic efforts,” Jeong told reporters after his meeting with Kono.

Japan imposed a series of trade restrictions on South Korea several months after Seoul’s top court ordered several Japanese companies to compensate Korean wartime labor victims in October 2018.

Viewing the move as retaliation, South Korea announced that it will not renew GSOMIA in August. While Tokyo wants to renew the agreement, Seoul has maintained it will only reconsider its decision if Japan normalizes trade. GSOMIA will expire at midnight on Saturday, if the positions of the two sides do not change.

Speaking with Kono, Jeong also touched on the military dispute that broke out early this year, when Japan claimed a South Korean destroyer targeted its surveillance aircraft with a fire control radar.

Rejecting Japan’s claim, Jeong stressed that the source of the conflict stems from the Japanese aircraft flying dangerously low and close to the Korean destroyer.

Seoul’s ministry said both ministers agreed on the importance of trilateral security cooperation with the US for the resumption of denuclearization talks with North Korea.

Following their bilateral talks, the two held a trilateral meeting with US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

The US, which played a role in facilitating GSOMIA when it was signed in 2016, has been pressuring South Korea to renew the deal.

Earlier on Sunday, Japan’s Yomiuri Simbun reported that the Japanese government has decided to keep the export controls against South Korea and that it should be dealt with separately to GSOMIA. Tokyo has also delivered its stance to the US and asked for understanding, the media outlet said.

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