In a new salvo in the diplomatic tension between South Korea and Japan, Seoul hit back by pulling out of a military intelligence-sharing contract with Tokyo. The General Security of Army Information Agreement (GSOMIA), made in 2016 and up for renewal this November, allowed for more “seamless intelligence sharing” between the two nations.
This could create broader security matters in Asia. Specifically, the GSOMIA lets Tokyo and Seoul instantly trade-sensitive army records— especially relating to North Korean nuclear and missile activity — without having to go via Washington. The intelligence-sharing agreement is now set to expire in November.
Bilateral relationships spiraled downward after South Korea’s SC supported a lower court’s ruling ordering Japanese corporations to pay unpaid South Korean laborers from Japan’s colonial period (1910-1945). Japan countered in early July by curbing exports of materials essential to South Korea’s semiconductor and electronics industry, then removed South Korea from its “white list” of nations granted preferential trade access to strategic items.
South Korea responded in kind, declaring its intent to expel Japan from its white list of most well-liked trading partners. However, the deep-seated trade spat has now shifted to defense and security matters, with South Korean President Moon Jae-in administration’s choice to not renew the GSOMIA.
Although the measures take a direct toll on Japan, removal from the GSOMIA, in the end, decreases South Korea’s own national security and leaves the USA, Japan, and Korea less ready to respond to North Korean stimuli.
In recent weeks, North Korea has carried out seven short-range missile tests. The most recent test, performed one day after Seoul’s withdrawal from the GSOMIA, makes it difficult to believe the official assertion that the GSOMIA is not in South Korea’s political interest.