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Why did South Korea change its willingness to extend the military agreement to make concessions at the last minute?

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The Japan Broadcasting Association (NHK) reported on November 22 local time that the South Korean government informed Japan that it will not terminate the Korea-Japan Military Intelligence Protection Agreement (GSOMIA). South Korea changed its mouth at the last minute. Some analysts believe that the US pressure is effective, and some people refer to it or related to the Japanese attitude.

Japanese government officials said they had conveyed the above policy to the Japanese government after the South Korean government held the National Security Conference (NSC) on November 21 to terminate the GSOMIA agreement.

South Korea’s attitude changed at the last minute

At 6 o’clock on the afternoon of November 22, a press conference was held in Cheong Wa Dae, South Korea, and NGC acting deputy director Jin Yugen announced the conditional extension of the GSOMIA agreement. Jin Yugen stressed that “the Chinese government decided to postpone the GSOMIA agreement termination period on condition that the GSOMIA agreement can be terminated at any time.” In addition, Jin Yugen also revealed that Japan will also issue domestic measures.

It is worth noting that the South Korean government’s previous position has been very tough. It has repeatedly stated that only Japan will first lift its export restrictions on South Korea, otherwise the South Korean position will never change. Even if senior US officials put pressure on South Korea, they warned that if the South Korean side does not accept the US’s opinions, it will face the worst situation, and South Korea is still unmoved.

The South Korean government’s sudden change in the tone six hours before the expiration of the agreement is really curious. Some analysts believe that the United States has played a role in all-round pressure on South Korea. Under the circumstance that the United States is constantly demanding an increase in the distribution of defense fees between South Korea and the United States, the South Korean government has to “submit” and is willing to extend the GSOMIA agreement.

Some sources pointed out that in fact, the relaxation of the Japanese attitude has played a key role.

Realistic considerations for Korea’s extension of the GSOMIA agreement

At the press conference, Kim Yu-gen said, “As long as the export relationship between Korea and Japan is normal, Japan will stop the above-mentioned WTO-related issues.” From this speech, it is not difficult to find that the conditions for Korea to extend the GSOMIA agreement are precisely the changes in attitudes of the Japanese side, or the restrictions on exports to South Korea will be relaxed.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan held a press conference at the same time, and still announced that the policy of licensing after reviewing individual types of commodities has not changed, and that South Korea is still outside the trade “white list.”

Although the official attitude of Japan has not changed, the Kyodo News reported on November 22 that according to internal sources of the Japanese government, Japan is willing to engage in dialogue with South Korea and the two countries reached a consensus on consultation on trade management issues. In addition, the source also pointed out that the two countries will restart the Korean-Japanese policy-level policy dialogue to discuss issues related to export management. The above dialogue has been interrupted since 2016, and the restart is of great significance.

Whether the two countries can use South Korea to announce the extension of the GSOMIA Agreement as an opportunity to resume dialogue and improve relations between the two countries is of concern. However, from the current signs, the two countries are interested in solving the current difficult problems.

Yonhap News Agency reported on November 22, according to the core party of the South Korean ruling party, the South Korean government has proposed a “package deal” to the Japanese side. The ROK proposes that the two sides should first take a step from the big framework and make one step on the issue of restricting trade and terminating the agreement, and hold another consultation to discuss the case of the Korea Grand Court on the forced compensation for workers. However, the key is whether the Japanese side can accept the Korean proposal.

Park Yuan-kun, a professor at Han Dong University in South Korea, believes that South Korea’s announcement at this time to postpone the termination of the GSOMIA agreement has two advantages. First, the South side proposed to the Japanese side to resolve the contradictions and make “great concessions” to occupy a moral advantage, which will help South Korea gain more support in future negotiations. Second, in the negotiations with the United States on the Korea-US defense fee sharing, the US lost its reasons for threatening South Korea to increase its contribution, and it also increased South Korea’s position in the negotiations.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in an interview on November 22nd that South Korea extended the GSOMIA agreement. This is a judgment made by South Korea from a strategic perspective and is very important for the cooperation between the United States, Japan and South Korea.


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