S. Korea cancels Japan intelligence deal amid trade dispute

  • South Korean President Moon Jae-in listens a report from officials about the General Security of Military Information Agreement in Seoul on Thursday. South Korea Presidential Blue House via AP

  • South Korean protesters shout slogans during a rally demanding the South Korean government to abolish the General Security of Military Information Agreement, or GSOMIA, an intelligence-sharing agreement between South Korea and Japan, in front of Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. The letters read "Abolish the General Security of Military Information Agreement, or GSOMIA. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man) Lee Jin-man

  • Kim You-geun, deputy director of South Korea's presidential national security office speaks at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. South Korea says it is canceling an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan amid a bitter trade dispute with its Asian neighbor. (Bae Jae-man/Yonhap via AP) Bae Jae-man

  • FILE - In this June 28, 2019, file photo, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, right, walks by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe upon his arrival for a welcome and family photo session at the G-20 leaders summit in Osaka, western Japan. South Korea said Thursday, Aug. 22, it is canceling an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan amid a bitter trade dispute, a surprise announcement that is likely to set back U.S. efforts to bolster mutual security cooperation with two of its most important allies in the Asian region. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Pool Photo via AP, File) Kim Kyung-Hoon

  • South Korean protesters react after they listen the news reporting about the General Security of Military Information Agreement, or GSOMIA, in front of Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. South Korea says it is canceling an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan amid a bitter trade dispute with its Asian neighbor. The letters read "Abolish the General Security of Military Information Agreement, or GSOMIA." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man) Lee Jin-man

  • FILE - In this Aug. 2, 2019, file photo, a woman walks past an advertisement featuring Japanese and South Korean flags at a shop in Shin Okubo area in Tokyo. South Korea says it is canceling an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan amid a bitter trade dispute with its Asian neighbor. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File) Eugene Hoshiko

  • South Korean protesters react during a rally about the General Security of Military Information Agreement, or GSOMIA, in front of Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. South Korea will stop exchanging classified intelligence on North Korea with Japan amid a bitter trade dispute, an official said Thursday, a surprise announcement that is likely to set back U.S. efforts to bolster security cooperation with two of its most important allies in the Asian region. The sign read "No Abe." and "Welcome, termination of GSOMIA." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man) Lee Jin-man

  • A South Korean protester reacts during a rally about the General Security of Military Information Agreement, or GSOMIA, in front of Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. South Korea will stop exchanging classified intelligence on North Korea with Japan amid a bitter trade dispute, an official said Thursday, a surprise announcement that is likely to set back U.S. efforts to bolster security cooperation with two of its most important allies in the Asian region. The sign read "No Abe." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man) Lee Jin-man

Associated Press
Published: 8/22/2019 6:16:43 PM
Modified: 8/22/2019 6:16:30 PM

South Korea said Thursday it will terminate an intelligence-sharing deal with Japan that focused on classified information about North Korea, a surprise announcement that is likely to set back U.S. efforts to bolster security cooperation with two of its most important allies in the Asian region.

South Korea attributed the decision to its bitter trade dispute with Japan, which has plunged the two countries’ relations to their lowest point since they established diplomatic ties in 1965. Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono called the decision “extremely regrettable” and summoned the South Korean ambassador to protest the linking of trade and security issues.

The U.S. expressed disappointment in the decision. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. hopes that “each of those two countries can begin to put that relationship back in exactly the right place.” The U.S. is urging Japan and South Korea to continue to talk, he said.

Many experts had predicted that South Korea would be unlikely to spike the 3-year-old intelligence-sharing deal for the sake of its relations with the United States. South Korea has been seeking U.S. help in resolving the trade dispute, and Seoul and Washington have also been working together to restart stalled talks on stripping North Korea of its nuclear weapons.

South Korea’s presidential office said it terminated the intelligence deal because Japan’s recent decision to downgrade South Korea’s trade status caused a “grave” change in security cooperation between the countries.

“Under this situation, the government has determined that maintaining the agreement, which was signed for the purpose of exchanging sensitive military intelligence on security, does not serve our national interests,” Kim You-geun, the deputy director of South Korea’s presidential national security office, said in a nationally televised statement.

He said South Korea would formally notify Japan of its decision before Saturday, the deadline for an extension of the pact for another year.

Japanese Foreign Minister Kono said in a statement that the decision “was an action that completely misjudged the current security environment in the region and is extremely regrettable.”

He said South Korea’s linking of trade and security was “absolutely unacceptable, and we firmly protest to the South Korean government.”

Since early last month, Japan has imposed stricter controls on exports to South Korea of three chemicals essential for manufacturing semiconductors and display screens – key export items for South Korea – and decided to remove South Korea from a list of countries granted preferential trade status.

South Korea accuses Japan of weaponizing trade to punish it over a separate dispute linked to Japan’s brutal colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945. Japan denies that, saying its steps were taken because of unspecified security concerns.

The Japanese trade curbs triggered an outburst of anti-Japan sentiment in South Korea. Many South Korean citizens rallied in the streets, canceled planned holiday trips to Japan and launched widespread boycotts of Japanese beer, clothes and other products. The South Korean government, for its part, decided to downgrade Japan’s trade status.

Some experts say the tit-for-tat actions could eventually hurt South Korea’s economy more than Tokyo’s. Many big South Korean manufacturers including Samsung rely heavily on materials and components imported from Japan, while Japan doesn’t import many vital materials from South Korea.




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