Seoul and Tokyo have agreed to hold talks on thorny issues, staving off the end of the General Security of Military Information Agreement.
“Our government, under the condition that the effect of GSOMIA can be ended at any time, decided to halt the effect of the announcement of the end of its validity on Aug. 23, and the Japanese government expressed its understanding,” said Kim You-geun, deputy director of the National Security Office.
He said the two governments have agreed to announce steps they will take simultaneously, and that the two sides also agreed to halt World Trade Organization procedures regarding the trade measures the two sides have taken while trade talks are being carried out.
According to a Cheong Wa Dae official, Seoul has maintained the position that the developments surrounding GSOMIA were caused by Japan in attempting to resolve the matter.
“Until recently, the two countries have been holding very practical negotiations through the countries’ diplomatic channels,” a Cheong Wa Dae official said on condition of anonymity, adding that such efforts led to Friday’s decision.
“However, Korea-Japan relations are still in a serious situation. The government hopes that friendly Korea-Japan relations are normalized and continue to make efforts to this end.”
He said that Seoul will maintain the “two-track” approach, dealing with historical issues and practical issues including security matters separately.
The official also elaborated that the trade talks Seoul and Tokyo agreed to hold will deal with both the whitelist and Japan’s strengthening of exports regulations on fluorinated polyimides, photoresists and hydrogen fluoride -- three semiconductor-related materials that Korean firms are heavily dependent on among Japanese imports.
In response to the Korean Supreme Court’s ruling on forced labor victims, Tokyo applied trade curbing measures on three key semiconductor-related materials, and removed South Korea from its whitelist of trusted trade partners.
Seoul responded by removing Japan from its own whitelist, and announced the GSOMIA would not be renewed. GSOMIA was set to become invalid at midnight Friday.
Tokyo then took the issue to the WTO, accusing Seoul of violating principles of free trade.
Cheong Wa Dae also revealed that high-level trade officials of the two sides will engage in talks over related issues.
Friday’s announcement is a sudden turnaround following hints from Cheong Wa Dae that without Tokyo changing its position on trade issues first, GSOMIA would be terminated as scheduled.
On Thursday, the National Security Council was convened with National Security Office chief Chung Eui-yong presiding, where the council members discussed “various situations that will be prepared in relation to the issue,” fanning speculations that Seoul would not reverse its decision on GSOMIA.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com