The decision by the government of the Republic of Korea yesterday to terminate the General Security of Military Information Agreement(GSOMIA) between Korea and Japan was a product of extensive deliberations and taken in accordance with national interest.
The purpose of GSOMIA is to facilitate the exchange of sensitive military information based on a high level of trust between the two countries. However, in light of Japan’s claims that basic trust between Korea and Japan had been undermined, there is no longer any justification for the Republic of Korea to maintain GSOMIA.
Japan took unwarranted economic retaliation against the Republic of Korea, claiming that since the ruling by the Korean Supreme Court last year runs counter to the 1965 Claims Agreement, the Korean government should take appropriate action to rectify the ruling by the Supreme Court because ‘Korea has violated international law’.
Let me reiterate that the ROK government has never denied the 1965 Claims Agreement. Rather, the ROK government has consistently adhered to the position that crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Japanese government and military have not been resolved by the 1965 Claims Agreement, and thus rights of the individual victims of forced labor to claim damages remain intact. The ruling by the Korean Supreme Court reaffirmed this position.
On August 27, 1991, the Director General of the Treaties Bureau of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs also 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.
The Japanese government has labeled the ruling by the Supreme Court of the Republic of Korea as a violation of international law and is demanding that the ROK government rectifies the situation. However, this is nothing but an expression of disregard for the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers. It goes without saying that government intervention in the judiciary is simply unimaginable in a proper democracy.
Thus far, the leadership in Japan has only resorted to its previous claims without seriously engaging in any dialogue and repeated its demands that Korea must move first to rectify the situation, since ‘Korea unilaterally violated international law’. The ROK government has made clear that it is open to various different ways to resolve the issue with Japan in a diplomatic manner and continuously sought dialogue.
The ROK government dispatched a high level envoy to Japan on two occasions in July and also attempted to engage in consultations with a high level official within the Japanese Prime Minister’s Office through the ROK Ambassador to Japan in August, but to no avail. Even on August 15th, Korea’s Liberation Day, a high-ranking ROK official visited Japan. But the result was the same.
The ROK Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy also repeatedly requested consultations to the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry with regard to Korea’s export control regime that the Japanese side took issues with. In addition to the request for consultations between the Director Generals of ROK Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on July 16, we also requested one-on-one talks between the Heads of Delegation at the WTO General Council on July 24 and at the RCEP Ministerial Meeting on July 27, but were rebuffed by Japan.
The ROK government reached out its hand to Japan through President Moon’s speech on the National Liberation Day and even went as far as informing Japan of the contents of the speech in advance, but Japan did not show any response and even failed to show any appreciation for this gesture.
At the ROK-Japan Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held in Beijing on August 21, Japan also repeated its basic position and did not engage in earnest dialogue.
It was not only the government that made such efforts. ROK lawmakers who belong to the ROK-Japan Parliamentarians’ Union visited Japan from July 31 to August 1 and held discussions, but I do not think I need to elaborate on what kind of treatment they were subjected to while in Japan.
In addition, National Assembly Member Park Ji-won also visited Japan from August 19 to 20 as the Special Envoy of the Speaker of ROK National Assembly. He tried to resolve the conflict between Korea and Japan, but the result was the same.
All of you will be well aware of the briefing I gave on ROK-Japan relations to the foreign press in Korea on July 17. At the time, I emphasized the need for a future-oriented cooperation between the two countries, bringing up the ‘Choshu-Satsuma Alliance’ that made Meiji Restoration possible, to send a direct message to the Japanese people, even though I had been fully aware of possible backlash in the domestic media.
The United States also proposed a Standstill Agreement to Korea and Japan to prevent the deterioration of the current situation and recommend the two countries to resolve the problem through dialogue. The ROK government welcomed this proposal and agreed to have consultations with Japan, but Japan rejected this proposal and went as far as denying the existence of such proposal.
As I had explained earlier, we were sincerely willing to positively consider all options to reach a diplomatic solution to the issue of force labor with Japan without any prejudice, and conveyed our willingness to Japan. However, Japan’s response went beyond a simple ‘No’. Japan continued to ignore us in a clear affront to our national pride and a breach of diplomatic etiquette.
Meanwhile, the ROK government maintained close communications with the United States in the course of reviewing the conflict with Japan as well as GSOMIA. In particular, there had been very close consultations between the National Security Councils of the Republic of Korea and the United States.
The ROK government will work to ensure that the latest decision will serve to not weaken the ROK-U.S alliance, but actually upgrade the alliance so that it becomes even more solid.
I understand that there may be concerns that following the termination of GSOMIA that was signed in November 2016, there could be a shortage of exchange of military information with regard to security. We will actively utilize the trilateral information sharing channel with the United States as the intermediary through the Trilateral Information Sharing Agreement signed between the Republic of Korea, the United States and Japan in December 2014.
Furthermore, the ROK government will actively enhance our defense capabilities through the increase in defense budget and the acquisition of strategic assets including military satellites.
Having witnessed the economic retaliatory measures taken by Japan, I’m sure the Korean people also realized that if we do not increase our independence on the key parts and components, our economy could be exposed to further dangers triggered by external events at any time.
The same logic applies to the field of security. Today’s international political climate is a markedly different one compared to just a few years ago. Multilateralism has regressed, while there is a pervading sense of countries putting their interests first. In the midst of it all, we will be able to prevent the possibility of being exposed to a security setback only when we are equipped with enough capabilities to defend ourselves.
If we boldly take the initiative to enhance our defense capabilities, this will also conform to the U.S desire of seeing an ally increase its contributions to security, and will ultimately lead to a stronger ROK-U.S alliance. Thank you.