Thus far, the ROK government has continuously demanded the retraction of economic retaliation that Japan had undertaken with regard to the ruling of the Korean Supreme Court. In spite of these efforts, Japan took the measure to exclude the Republic of Korea from its ‘whitelist’, effective from today. The ROK government strongly regrets the latest action taken by Japan.
With regard to the ROK government’s decision to terminate the ROK-Japan General Security of Military Information Agreement, Japan has been claiming recently that the Republic of Korea has tied Japan’s export restriction measures to a security issue in the form of GSOMIA. However, we want to once again point out that it was Japan who actually linked security issues with export restriction measures in the first place.
As all of you will be well aware, Japan initially claimed that trust had been breached between the two countries with regard to the forced labor issue as it took export restriction measures. However, Japan went on to change its tune to claim that the problems in ROK’s export control regime had a negative impact on Japan’s security. As I had referenced in the earlier briefing, the Institute of Science and International Security, a renowned institute in the United States ranked the Republic of Korea at 17th and Japan at 36th when grading our respective export control regimes concerning strategic material, which all but confirmed that Japan’s claim was simply groundless.
Moreover, prominent figures in Japan are talking as if Korea is an untrustworthy country that does not abide by international law. Furthermore, Prime Minister Abe commented twice that Korea cannot be trusted upon and is treating us like an adversary.
Let me emphasize once again that the purpose of GSOMIA between Korea and Japan is to facilitate the exchange of sensitive military information between the two countries based on a very high level of mutual trust. Now that basic trust has been undermined between the two countries as Japan is claiming, there is no justification for maintaining GSOMIA.
In particular, Foreign Minister Kono had claimed at a press conference yesterday that “if Korea is trying to rewrite history, that will not be possible”. In fact, it is actually Japan who is trying to rewrite history.
Let me repeat that the ROK government has never denied the 1965 Claims Agreement. The ROK government has consistently maintained the position that the crimes against humanity in which the Japanese state organs including the government and the military had participated cannot be deemed as resolved by the 1965 Claims Agreement and thus the individual rights of the forced labor victims to claim reparations are very much alive. The ruling by the Supreme Court last year confirmed this position.
The Japanese government is demanding that the ROK government rectify the ruling by the Supreme Court. However, such demands ignore the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers. In a democracy, the government simply cannot intervene in judicial decisions.
On August 27, 1991, the Director-General of the Treaties Bureau of the Japanese Foreign Ministry expressed the view that individual rights to claim damages had not been waived by the 1965 Claims Agreement. Moreover, Japan also expressed its view that the rights of the Japanese victims of forced labor in Siberia during the Second World War to claim damages had not been waived by the Joint Declaration between Japan and Soviet Union in 1956. In this way, Japan is overturning its own position.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Lee mentioned that, since there are still 3 months left until its termination, GSOMIA could be reconsidered if the two sides could reach a solution in the ensuing period and if Japan withdraws the unwarranted measures. Let me point out that the ball is now in Japan’s court.
I’m aware that there are some people voicing concerns about possible fissures in the ROK-U.S alliance after the United States had expressed its disappointment and concerns following the decision to terminate GSOMIA.
As I had explained in the previous briefing, it is understandable that the United States may express its disappointment over the ROK government’s decision to terminate GSOMIA as it had continuously hoped for the maintenance of the agreement. ‘Disappointment’ is a diplomatic expression that the United States uses publicly when there are policy differences with an ally or a partner.
Right now, the international order is facing a vortex of great changes.
First, multilateralism that pursues common interests of the international community is regressing. In its place, we are seeing a growing trend of each country fending for itself to maximize its own national interest. This is the reality, and we have to create diplomatic room to advance our national interest based on this reality.
As all the Korean people can see, the recent situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula cannot be an exception. In such turbulent times, a one-dimensional approach that favors the status quo will not enable us to overcome rising tides.
We have to enhance our strategic value by securing innovative technologies in anticipation of the 4th industrial revolution and realize strong security by strengthening our defense capabilities.
To this end, we will create an innovative ecosystem for domestic industries. We will also significantly expand the measures to upgrade our competitiveness in key parts, components and materials as well as investment in research and development to secure innovative technologies.
We will provide active support to Korean companies so that they could pursue merger and acquisition with technology companies abroad. We will also actively encourage the recruitment of top talents from abroad to Korea.
In the same way that our economy could be exposed to dangers at any time if we do not increase the independence of core technologies, we could be exposed to security dangers at any time if we cannot defend ourselves.
We have to boldly take the initiative to strengthen our defense capabilities, and we need to build key security capabilities such as military reconnaissance satellites, light aircraft carriers and next generation submarines.
If we could upgrade our strategic value through these efforts, we will be able to proactively respond to changes in the political situation on the Korean Peninsula. In the course of doing so, we need to further strengthen our alliance with the United States, with whom we share common values such as democracy and market economy.
It is wrong to assume that the termination of GSOMIA between Korea and Japan will lead to fissures in the ROK-U.S alliance and create huge problems in our ability to respond to security threats against us. On the contrary, the ROK government will use the termination of GSOMIA between Korea and Japan as an opportunity to further upgrade the ROK-U.S alliance by taking the initiative in strengthening our own capabilities.
As the official who had been responsible for the FTA negotiations with the United States in the past, at the time there had been strong criticism that once ROK-U.S FTA is concluded, the price of cold medicine will soar to 100 USD, beef infected with BSE will be distributed and the Korean film industry will be hard hit by the abolition of the screen quotas. As you all know, the result was just the opposite. I’m very much aware that trade and security belong to different domains. However, the geopolitical dimension remains the same.
The important thing is that we create results by responding to the challenges at hand with a grand strategic objective. There is no need to overestimate our geopolitical value and defense capabilities, and neither should we underestimate them.
The ROK-U.S alliance is a huge tree with deep roots stretching back 66 years based on common values such as democracy and market economy. This will not be easily shaken by the GSOMIA issue.
The ROK government’s firm position on the need for ROK-US as well as trilateral cooperation involving Japan remains unchanged. It was Japan that undermined the trilateral partnership by undertaking arbitrary and hostile economic retaliation against the Republic of Korea. Just as President Moon had mentioned in his speech on the National Liberation Day, we hope Japan will grasp the hand that we have reached out.
In light of the current trends in international politics, the ROK government will deal with diplomatic challenges at hand in a comprehensive manner in order to enhance our strategic position. Such foreign and security policy will contribute to the expansion of our role in terms of security that the United States is expecting of us, and it will enable us to elevate the ROK-U.S alliance a further notch.