National / Politics

Top South Korean official accuses Japan of distorting facts in intel-pact negotiations

Kyodo

South Korea’s national security chief on Sunday accused Japan of deliberately distorting details of their negotiations on maintaining a bilateral intelligence-sharing agreement.

At a news conference in Busan, Chung Eui-yong, director of the Blue House National Security Office, expressed “deep regret” over the alleged distortion, saying Seoul lodged a protest through diplomatic channels and had received an apology.

He indicated that Seoul did not intend to go back on its last-minute decision Friday to conditionally suspend the expiry of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) which was due to lapse later that day.

Chung specifically accused the Japanese side of misrepresenting South Korea’s position on stricter export controls imposed by Tokyo earlier this year on its neighbor.

“It was not only very different from what the two sides agreed on, but if this is what had been discussed, there’s no way there would have been an agreement,” he said.

He also warned that a repeat of such behavior would cause “great difficulties” in future negotiations between the two countries.

Chung said that while the Japanese trade ministry on Friday claimed that he expressed willingness to make revisions to his country’s export controls, that was “factually incorrect.”

He said he actually confirmed the operation of South Korea’s export controls and asserted that he agreed to discuss the removal of Japan’s tightened export controls on technology exports to the country.

Chung also criticized the fact that Japanese media on Friday partially reported details of their negotiations about an hour earlier than the agreed-on announcement time, alleging it stemmed from an intentional leak.

He took issue with media characterizations of Seoul’s decision to keep the pact alive as having “succumbed to U.S. pressure” and “a victory for Japanese diplomacy.”

Japan’s logic that the pact and the tightened export controls are separate issues was “effectively refuted,” he said, adding that South Korea “won the decision.”

“We will continue to work with Japan to reach a final agreement as soon as possible,” he added.

Citing security concerns, Japan in July tightened export controls on South Korea. Seoul, which saw the move as retaliation for decisions made by South Korea’s Supreme Court last year regarding war-time forced labor, decided in August to not renew the intelligence-sharing pact.

On Friday evening, following eleventh-hour negotiations with Tokyo, the presidential office announced that it had decided to suspend the expiration of GSOMIA on condition that it could be terminated at any moment.

It also said that South Korea would suspend its complaint filed against Japan at the World Trade Organization over the tightening of controls.

The United States had expressed concern over a possible weakening of trilateral security cooperation involving its two allies if GSOMIA were scrapped.