Thursday, July 5, 2012


Seoul had already signed a provisional military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan in late April without making the contentious matter public or notifying the National Assembly, officials confirmed Tuesday.  Kim Min-seok, spokesman of the Ministry of National Defense, said that Army Brig. Gen. Shin Kyung-soo signed the tentative agreement on exchanging military intelligence during a visit to Tokyo on April 23.
Working level officials of Korea and Japan signed a preliminary pact to confirm that the two countries reached a consensus on the draft of the agreement, he said. Kim added that Seoul and Tokyo made numerous modifications to the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) before confirming the final draft last month. 
A top defense official told The Korea Times that Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin postponed the signing of the GSOMIA that he planned to endorse during a cancelled visit to Tokyo in May. He withdrew his plan to conclude the GSOMIA after Rep. Park Jie-won, then the interim head of the main opposition Democratic United Party, expressed strong skepticism over the move, the official said asking for anonymity. 
The senior official said he was notified of the Cabinet’s plan to approve the GSOMIA in a close-door meeting three days prior to it, but it was too late for him to block the deal. 
I knew it was wrong and someone will need to take responsibility for it, he said. But I could not stop the Cabinet’s plan to approve it secretly.
Defense Minister Kim shelved his visit due to protests from opposition parties in May. 
Some defense ministry officials, however, argued that the government has no obligation to report the signing of an initial pact to the public or the National Assembly. Initialing an agreement is made when working-level officials agree on a draft of the agreement, an official said on condition of anonymity. 
There is no obligation to report the process of working-level consultations to the National Assembly. On Friday, South Korea postponed signing the intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, less than an hour before the two nations were scheduled to formally sign the pact in Tokyo, in an unprecedented diplomatic embarrassment for both nations.

I think this goes beyond leftists’ reservation about Japan. Japan has already negotiated a GSOMIA and the follow-on ACSA with Australia. Japan, according to the Yomiuri and a lot of academic work, is pushing for a five-fingered alliance against China, with Australia, India, the US, and South Korea. Judging by the second round of FTA talks with China next week and South Korea’s Saenuri party asking for 2MB to slow down, I think there is conservative ambivalence in South Korea to antagonizing China. This is just another indication there needs to be a discussion in South Korea. 2MB just can’t push this through for his legacy in the last months of his term, even if this is all he’s good for – being the stooge for Japan and the US.

Sure, cancelling the scheduled signing of a landmark intelligence pack with Japan just an hour before the big event is pretty embarrassing.
Still, it’s helpful to put things into perspective. And to do that, you could always count on the Roh Moo-hyun administration to illustrate what foreign policy incompetence really looks like:

Rep. Chung Mong-joon (photo), former leader of the ruling Saenuri Party, said Monday, The Roh Moo-hyun administration proposed that the U.S. define Japan as a hypothetical enemy.
President Roh proposed it because the general public had bad feelings against Japan and Korea had a territorial dispute over the Dokdo islets with Japan, Chung told reporters at the National Assembly, adding, Washington was very embarrassed since it had hoped Korea and Japan would go hand-in-hand as free and democratic countries. A hypothetical enemy in English implies a main enemy. This happened in a ministerial meeting in which commanders as well as ministers were attending.

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