August 19, 2019 09:39
The government will decide by this weekend whether to extend an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan amid an intensifying spat between the two neighbors.
A government official said Sunday, "Nothing has been decided yet on the extension. A decision will be made to maximize the national interest."
Korea and Japan extend the General Security of Military Information Agreement every year, and the pact is automatically terminated if one side wishes to scrap it 90 days in advance. Tokyo wants to continue it, leaving it up to Seoul to keep it alive. The government here has threatened to scrap it, but signs of softening are emerging.
President Moon Jae-in stressed in his Liberation Day speech last Thursday that the door remains open for dialogue with Tokyo.
Earlier this month, new U.S Defense Secretary Mark Esper met with Moon and Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and told them Washington wants the GSOMIA to be extended.
Meanwhile, the government will also carry out delayed defense drills to thwart an invasion of the easternmost Dokdo islets. They are likely to be conducted after joint U.S.-Korean military exercises end on Tuesday. The military here is considering keeping them at the usual scaled-down level and low profile if Seoul-Tokyo relations do not worsen.
Japan maintains a flimsy colonial-era claim to the East Sea islets.
The military and maritime police have held Dokdo defense drills in June and December each year. They were planned for June this year as well but postponed as Seoul-Tokyo relations chilled.
Since Japan applied restriction on exports of key high-tech materials to Korea in early July, there has been speculation that the government would expand the drills, but a government official said, "Nothing has been decided."
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