US shows concern over South Korea scrapping intelligence pact with Japan

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted that an improvement in ties between South Korea and Japan would be of "absolute value" not only to work in the context of North Korean issues but also on other regional and global matters. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (KYODO) - The United States expressed strong concern on Thursday (Aug 22) over South Korea's decision to terminate a military intelligence pact with Japan, while calling on the two countries to patch up bilateral ties amid trade and wartime compensation disputes.

"We're disappointed to see the decision that the South Koreans made about that information-sharing agreement. We were urging each of the two countries to continue to engage, continue to have dialogue," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a press conference in Canada where he was visiting.

Mr Pompeo also said he hopes that "each of those two countries can begin to put that relationship back in exactly the right place", noting that an improvement in their ties would be of "absolute value" not only to work in the context of North Korean issues but also on other regional and global matters.

A US Defence Department spokesman issued a statement that also expressed "strong concern and disappointment" over the decision reached by South Korean President Moon Jae-in's government regarding the General Security of Military Information Agreement, or GSOMIA.

"We strongly believe that the integrity of our mutual defence and security ties must persist despite frictions in other areas" of the South Korea-Japan relationship, he said, calling on the two countries to "work together to resolve their differences".

"I hope they can do this quickly. We are all stronger - and North-east Asia is safer - when the United States, Japan, and Korea work together in solidarity and friendship. Intel sharing is key to developing our common defence policy and strategy."

Signed in November 2016, the pact was facing a deadline on Saturday for either side to give written notification of their intent to pull out. South Korea said on Thursday it had decided to scrap the agreement.

Without such notification, it would have been automatically extended for another year.

The pact is intended to help the neighbouring countries counter threats such as North Korean missiles.

The United States will "continue to pursue bilateral and trilateral defence and security cooperation" with Japan and South Korea, the Pentagon spokesman said.

In Tokyo, Japanese Minister of Defence Takeshi Iwaya said on Friday that South Korea's decision was extremely regrettable and showed it failed to appreciate the growing national security threat posed by North Korean missiles.

"North Korea's repeated missile tests threaten national security and cooperating between Japan and South Korea and with the US is crucial," Mr Iwaya told reporters. "We strongly urge them to make a wise decision."

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