South Korea and Japan have agreed to extend their military intelligence sharing pact. Earlier this week, it was unsure whether the pact would be extended. The decision came at the last minute.
The pact between South Korea and Japan is called the General Security of Military Agreement (GSOMIA). This pact will open lines between the two countries. The open communication will allow them to share military information with one another.
Extending the Pact
This past week’s events painted a less-than-optimistic picture for the extension of the GSOMIA pact. Ties were breaking down between South Korea and the United States. The same was happening with Japan and the United States.
These threatened to break down the GSOMIA.
With six hours to go, diplomacy meetings went back and forth. The result was the suspension of the expiry of the agreement.
A number of things were included in this. For one, South Korea withdrew a complaint to the World Trade Organization. They were complaining about how Japan’s tight controls in certain export materials.
Japan has stopped exporting a certain kind of material that is very important to South Korea’s microchip industry. However, the Japanese government is open to relaxing these export terms. Discussions are continuing on the matter.
As the United States puts it, this shows how countries can work together despite bilateral differences.
The Bigger Picture
Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, said that South Korea made this decision from a purely strategic point of view. They indicated the status of the region as a key factor in their decision.
The United States was also eager to point out what would happen if the GSOMIA would not be re-extended. They said that only China and North Korea would benefit from this failure of cooperation.
When the pact was made three years ago, the main topic was North Korea. Specifically, it was the nuclear capacity of North Korea.
While the two countries were able to come together, the agreement is still rocky at best. South Korea and Japan have made it clear that at any time, the agreement can be called off.
Apart from that, South Korea and Japan’s own relationships with the United States are similarly shaky.
Both countries have United States troops stationed there. Each year, the United States asks for a fee that will allow for the troops to stay at the respective countries.
South Korea is vehemently against paying United States this year as the fee grew to a whopping $5 billion. This has severely strained the relationship between the two countries. It has also opened the door for China-South Korea defense agreements to be put in place.