Japan on Monday said it should maintain an intelligence-sharing pact with South Korea despite sinking bilateral ties between both countries.
“It is important for the two countries to cooperate with each other on issues that should be dealt with in a cooperative manner,” Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.
Japan’s top government spokesperson did concede, however, that ties between both c
ountries are in “a very difficult situation.”
The General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) is a bilateral military intelligence-sharing accord signed between both countries in November 2016.
The accord comes up for renewal each year, but can be cancelled by either party giving notice by Aug. 24.
Suga, however, said the deal remained significant and underscored the fact that since it was originally signed, it has been automatically renewed each year.
“We have automatically renewed the pact every year based on a recognition that it has strengthened bilateral security cooperation and contributed to peace and stability in the region,” Japan’s top government spokesperson said.
Ties between Japan and South Korea have sunk to their lowest level in recent times amid issues of wartime history and trade disputes.
Owing to Japan’s use of Korean forced laborers during its 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, South Korea’s Supreme Court has ordered some Japanese companies to pay compensation to the Korean victims.
Japan, however, maintains that the issue of wartime forced labor was resolved in a bilateral accord inked in 1965 between both parties and believes that Seoul has not cooperated with the setting up of an arbitration panel to address the matter.
Japan then tightened its export controls on three key materials widely imported by South Korea and used in the manufacturing of semiconductors and panels for TVs and smartphones.
Seoul maintains the stricter export controls imposed by Tokyo earlier this month were retaliation for the perceived lack of cooperation on arbitration for the wartime labor dispute, although Tokyo has insisted the move was made for reasons of national security.
As the rift between both sides widens, Japan said it will decide early next month whether to remove South Korea from its list of countries given preferential treatment when it comes to purchasing particular products that could also be used for military purposes.
The decision by Japan on whether to remove South Korea from its preferential “white list” will be made on Aug. 2 and will likely take effect from later the same month, sources close to the matter said.
If Japan goes ahead with the move, which will be endorsed by the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, it will be the first time a country has been removed from Japan’s white list.
Seoul has been on the white list since 2004 and has been guaranteed preferential treatment in terms of importing certain products from Japan.
Suga said late last week that the trade ministry is still conducting reviews of public sentiment here towards removing South Korea from its white list and maintained that nothing had been formally decided as yet.
Japan has a total of 27 countries on its whitelist, including the United States, Britain, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Argentina, and whitelisted countries can, through simplified procedures, receive products exported from Japan that could be potentially be diverted for military use.
In order to export the products to countries not on the white list, the countries need to obtain approval from Japan’s trade ministry. (Xinhua=Newsis)