|Evans Revere, a Korea expert in the U.S., served as acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and deputy chief of mission in the U.S. Embassy in Seoul. Courtesy of Evans Revere|
By Oh Young-jin
Korea's decision to quit a three-year-old intelligence-sharing pact with Japan could be looked back on as the start of the unraveling of the U.S.-led defense and security structure in Northeast Asia, a Korea expert in the United States warns.
"Years from now, when historians look back on this day, they will probably conclude that the unraveling of the U.S.-centric defense and security architecture in Northeast Asia began with this Korean decision," Evans Revere, the former U.S. acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told The Korea Times in a written interview.
The interview followed Korea's Aug. 22 decision not to renew its General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with Japan.
Revere said the U.S. had tried to intervene without success, saying Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other senior officials repeatedly told Korea that GSOMIA was a pillar for ROK-U.S.-Japan trilateral security cooperation and for the U.S. strategy for Korea's defense.
"This (Seoul) decision is being seen as a slap in the face of the Trump administration," he said after Pompeo's failure at the ASEAN Regional Forum to stop the bilateral situation from being aggravated.
The former deputy chief of mission in Korea said the beneficiaries are North Korea and China that have strongly opposed the trilateral security cooperation for years.
He took note of "some experts'" view that Korea's unwillingness to listen to the U.S. was a "failure of U.S. leadership."
"Clearly, President Trump does not view the U.S.-ROK alliance in the same way as his predecessors, nor does he appear to see the need for the United States to exercise leadership in the manner of his predecessors. So this may have contributed to the problem," Revere said, adding that he still does not understand why Seoul took a step that undermined Korea's own security interests.
He expected the U.S. to remain committed to Korea's defense despite its GSOMIA withdrawal but said it could serve as a wedge in the relations between the two allies.
"There are suspicions in the U.S. that there are those in the current ROK government who are not supporters of the U.S.-ROK alliance," Revere said. "This decision by the (presidential) Blue House will be seen by some in the U.S. as evidence in support of that suspicion."
About Japan's reaction, he said: "It is not clear that Japan will take any steps to retaliate in response to Seoul's decision and I suspect that Washington is urging Tokyo to react calmly and prudently to the new situation."
As to the resolution of the current situation, he cited a U.S. official as observing, "It will take new leadership in Seoul and Tokyo to resolve the current situation between the two."
Revere added: "I would say that it will also take new leadership in Washington to restore the traditional leadership role of the United States in East Asia."