Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Tsutomu Nishioka

【#615】Enormous Rift Created in U.S.-South Korea Alliance

Tsutomu Nishioka / 2019.08.29 (Thu)

August 26, 2019


On August 22, South Korea’s Moon Jae In government decided to terminate the General Security of Military Information Agreement between South Korea and Japan, known as GSOMIA, for bilateral military information exchange. The termination will only lead the two countries to go back to the situation before GSOMIA was signed in 2016, inflicting little damage on Japan that conducts intensive information exchanges with the United States. However, South Korea will face negative repercussion of failing to get Japanese satellite and radar data immediately without GSOMIA. In addition, South Korea made the decision in a manner to reject a repeated U.S. request for extending GSOMIA, creating an enormous rift in the U.S.-South Korea alliance.

Moon ignored U.S. persuasion

The U.S. defense secretary recently visited Seoul to persuade South Korean government leaders to extend GSOMIA. Furthermore, the U.S. ambassador in Seoul held a meeting with business leaders, requesting their cooperation in extending the agreement. Nevertheless, President Moon shrugged off the U.S. request. The South Korean government has cited what it claimed to be Japan’s trade restriction measures as the reason for terminating GSOMIA. Anticipating this, the U.S. ambassador asked business leaders, who should know well that the Japanese measure differs from any trade restriction, to persuade the government. Even the business leaders’ persuasion has been ignored.

In a bid to unify the Korean Peninsula on its own terms, North Korea has sought to weaken South Korea’s relations with Japan and the U.S. The late North Korean President Kim Il Sung had reiterated that North Korea could take over the South by cutting two chin-straps that support South Korea as a crown, according to Hwang Jang Yop, a former secretary of the North Korea Workers’ Party, who has defected to the South. The straps represent South Korea’s relations with Japan and the U.S. South Korea has been playing into North Korea’s hands by doing exactly what Kim Il Sung had hoped.

In a statement issued on August 24, a group of 500 generals and admirals in the reserve in South Korea criticized the Moon government for ignoring national interests and national security by taking the suicidal action of terminating GSOMIA, which could lead to the establishment of a Pyongyang-led Korean Federation and the completion of socialist revolution through the dismantlement of the South Korea-U.S. alliance, at a time when South Korea and Japan are exposed to North Korean nuclear threats and increasingly required to promote security cooperation. If the Moon government refused to reverse the decision, the group would launch a campaign to oust President Moon, it warned.

Pro-Pyongyang activists now in the government

Why did President Moon make the decision to the disadvantage of South Korean security? Moon has been suspected of using anti-Japan sentiment for maintaining his public support or concealing a scandal involving Cho Kuk, nominated by the president as a candidate for justice minister. I think that the situation is more serious than such speculation implies. We should presume that a large number of Juche activists (who had participated in an underground revolution movement in the 1980s in pursuit of the Pyongyang-led reunification and had not converted) in the Moon government are seeking to establish a Korean Federation and complete a socialist revolution through the dismantlement of the South Korea-U.S. alliance, as claimed by the group of reserve generals and admirals.

The Moon government has taken another suicidal action in the field of national security that has been little reported in Japan. In September 2018, a North-South military agreement was signed under which South Korean reconnaissance flights near the demilitarized zone have been suspended. To counter most effectively short-range missiles or rockets that North Korea has recently test fired repeatedly, South Korea would need to detect firing signs and destroy missiles. The reconnaissance flight suspension has made the detection difficult. Nevertheless, the Moon government has fallen short of denouncing the North Korean missile tests as running counter to the military agreement and continue to let South Korean military abide by it. They are suspected of intentionally undermining South Korean national security posture.

Tsutomu Nishioka is a senior fellow and a Planning Committee member at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals and a visiting professor at Reitaku University. He covers South and North Koreas.