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Seoul proposes GSOMIA to Beijing

Posted October. 29, 2016 07:02,   

Updated October. 29, 2016 07:14


It has been told that South Korea proposed China to sign the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) after it decided to resume its talks over the bilateral military information sharing pact with Japan on Thursday. “The government suggested signing GSOMIA to the Chinese embassy in Korea on Thursday,” South Korean government sources said on Friday. “We have not received any response yet.”

Seoul and Beijing have not signed any types of agreement or accord yet to share military information on Pyongyang's nuclear weapon or ballistic missile. Instead, two countries have continued their negotiation on some of the general topics with regard to Pyongyang in a vice-ministerial level defense dialogue. The South Korean government first proposed signing of GSOMIA to China at the second defense dialogue in July 2012, but China did not much care about Seoul’s suggestion.

The reason why South Korea is approaching to China again in four years to sign GSOMIA is against the backdrop of the heightened risk of North Korea’s provocations. Pyongyang has almost completed its nuclear weapon and is in the last stage of deployment of ballistic missile with nuclear warhead. South Korea needs more information and data to come up with effective military measures in the face of North Korea’s possible provocations. China could be a great help on this front as China is operating more than four long-range early warning radars, which can detect North Korea’s ballistic missile 5,500 kilometers away. In addition, China has been monitoring situations in its neighboring countries, including North Korea, through its reconnaissance satellite and an advanced Aegis system. China is one of the closest neighbors of North Korea and GSOMIA will allow South Korea to have an access to China’s HUMINT, a collection of human intelligence information. South Korea, so to speak, will be better prepared to understand internal situations in the isolated regime.

At the fifth Northeast Asia Security Consultation held in Beijing on Thursday, China and Russia criticized a deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea. The hostile atmosphere in Beijing is hinting that China would continue to be negative on signing GSOMIA with South Korea.

In the meantime, during the meeting of the National Defense Committee of the National Assembly on Friday, the opposition party members complained that the government brought up GSOMIA when the administration has been mired in the so called "Choi Sun-sil scandal." “Even officials at the Ministry of National Defense have been telling that they are not reviewing GSOMIA until recently. And the motive of mentioning GSOMIA is that the government hopes that GSOMIA will help the administration change the current situation,” said Rep. Rhee Cheol-hee of the opposition Minjoo Party. “The importance of sharing military information became more apparent after North Korea’s fourth nuclear test, and the ministry has decided to announce GSOMIA after an internal discussion," Defense Minister Han Min-koo said. "There are no other motives.”

Japan welcomed the resumption of negotiation on GSOMIA while expressing suspicions if South Korean President Park Geun-hye can provide the needed momentum to steer the administration amid political uncertainty. “President Park plans to visit Japan to attend a trilateral summit among South Korea, China and Japan in this coming December. The administration announced the resumption of talks in October to complete the agreement at least in November in order to prevent any disturbances coming in her way to visit Japan in December,” Japanese Asahi Shimbun reported. “A high-ranking foreign ministry official in Japan worried whether President Park has enough strength to push GSOMIA forward amid internal oppositions, referring to the "Choi Sun-sil scandal.”

손효주기자 hjson@donga.com · 도쿄=장원재특파원 peacechaos@donga.com