|Kim Hyun-chong, deputy presidential National Security Office, answers questions during a press briefing in announcing South Korea's position after Japan's decision to exclude South Korea from its list of most trusted trading partners took effect, at Cheong Wa Dae, Wednesday afternoon. Yonhap|
By Kim Yoo-chul, Park Ji-won
A senior presidential aide reaffirmed Wednesday that South Korea will not reconsider renewing a military intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan. He also accused Tokyo of attempting to rewrite history to hide its past wrongdoings before and after World War II.
"The removal of South Korea from a Japanese whitelist of preferred trading partners finally took effect, Wednesday. This is very regrettable. Japan is seriously damaging mutual trust. South Korea clearly has no plans to disregard the 1965 treaty normalizing diplomatic relations between the two countries," Kim Hyun-chong, deputy head of the presidential National Security Office (NSO), told reporters in a briefing at Cheong Wa Dae.
"Japan is asking us to do something about last year's South Korean Supreme Court rulings that ordered Japanese companies to compensate South Koreans conscripted as forced laborers. But that was the decision by our country's highest court. Our sovereign rights and jurisdiction should be respected as the government isn't in a position to intervene in such rulings," he said.
Kim, who is also South Korea's most seasoned trade specialist, was commenting on remarks made by Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono.
"Japan is aiming to rewrite history. Beyond the 1965 treaty, individual victims have rights to claim compensation for Japan's wartime wrongdoings. The rulings just confirmed this postion," the aide told reporters.
"Moreover, Japan expressed its view that the rights to claim damages of Japanese victims of forced labor in Siberia during World War II had not been removed by the joint declaration between Japan and the Soviet Union in 1956. In this way, Japan is negating its own position. How ironic is that?"
Foreign Minister Kono reiterated Tuesday that last year's court ruling was "invalid" due to the 1965 treaty, adding that he hoped Seoul could understand that "rewriting history is impossible."
Kim said it was justifiable for South Korea not to renew the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with Japan because of trust issues. "Because trust is the backbone and central point in terms of sharing sensitive military information, Seoul has no option but to end the intelligence sharing pact due to a lack of this."
Relations between Washington's two Asia allies deteriorated after the Supreme Court rulings. Tokyo is claiming all outstanding relevant issues over its wrongdoings before and after World War II were completely settled by the 1965 treaty.
The presidential aide added the government has acknowledged concerns about possible fissures in its security cooperation with Washington, but stressed Seoul would use the withdrawal from the GSOMIA as an "opportunity" to upgrade their alliance.
"It is wrong to assume that the termination of the GSOMIA between Korea and Japan will lead to problems in the Washington-Seoul alliance and reduce our ability to respond to security threats. We have to take the initiative to strengthen our defense capabilities, and we need to build key security capabilities such as military reconnaissance satellites, light aircraft carriers and next generation submarines. In the course of doing so, we need to further strengthen our alliance with the United States, with whom we share the common values of democracy and the market economy," he told reporters.
Calling the alliance a "huge tree with deep roots and stretching back 66 years based on common values," the NSO deputy said it won't be "easily shaken" by the GSOMIA issue.
The rather emotional press conference came after Washington stepped up its criticism of the withdrawal from the GSOMIA, warning the decision will complicate defense issues and increase the risks to U.S. forces.
The U.S. State Department said it was "deeply disappointed and concerned" about the decision. Also, the Pentagon said mutual defense and security ties between Washington-Seoul-Tokyo must persist despite friction between the neighboring countries.