South Korea Exits Japanese Intel-Sharing Agreement
The South Korean government has said it will end a crucial intelligence-sharing arrangement with Japan, as a trade dispute between the two wartime foes deepens.
Kim You-geun, deputy director of the presidential National Security Council, said the move was a response to Tokyo’s decision to remove South Korea’s fast-track export status earlier this month.
“Under this situation, we have determined that it would not serve our national interest to maintain an agreement we signed with the aim of exchanging military information which is sensitive to security,” he reportedly told a news conference.
The General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) was due for automatic renewal on Saturday. It enables the two Asian giants to directly share vital intelligence on North Korea’s nuclear and missile program.
In response, Japanese defense minister, Takeshi Iwaya has criticized Seoul for conflating trade and security matters.
“North Korea’s repeated missile tests threaten national security and cooperating between Japan and South Korea and with the US is crucial,” he’s reported to have said. “We strongly urge them to make a wise decision.”
Bilateral relations between the countries started to deteriorate after a South Korean court ruled last year that Japanese companies like Mitsubishi must pay compensation for their use of forced labor during Japan’s occupation of the country from 1910-45.
Japan seemed to respond by placing restrictions on the materials needed by South Korean chip-makers like Samsung to build semiconductors. Seoul came back tit-for-tat by removing Japan from a whitelist of trusted trade partners.
Commentators have argued that the spat has worrying echoes of American policy under the Trump administration: more focused on country first at the expense of vital security partnerships on the world stage.
The news could not come at a worse time, given the growing might of China in the region and its burgeoning military alliance with Russia, as well as the continued threat from North Korea.
There is an increasingly cyber-focused dimension to military alliances and warfare today. In 2017, NATO confirmed it was establishing cyber as a legitimate military domain in light of the North Korean WannaCry and Russia NotPetya attacks.