August 29, 2019 09:39
Vice Foreign Minister Cho Se-young on Wednesday summoned U.S. Ambassador to Korea Harry Harris and urged U.S. officials to "refrain" from publicly criticizing Seoul's decision to scrap an intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo.
After previously saying its two Northeast Asian allies must sort out their growing spat themselves, U.S. officials have recently complained about the looming termination of the General Security of Military Information Agreement.
According to one diplomatic source, Cho told Harris that repeated public expressions of disappointment by U.S. officials "do not help," and that Seoul has given Washington ample explanations that the scrapping of GSOMIA was not aimed at negatively impacting the Seoul-Washington alliance.
It was a rare case of the Korean government openly summoning the U.S. ambassador, which is normally done behind the scenes to avoid damaging their united front. The Foreign Ministry claimed it was merely a "face-to-face talk" with Harris, but diplomatic sources said the ministry summoned him to protest.
Earlier, a high-ranking U.S. official pointed out that the pact remains effective until Nov. 22 and added that he hopes Korea will "change its mind" by then, according to AFP. The unnamed official also blamed the Korean and Japanese governments for triggering the diplomatic dispute.
To make matters worse, a U.S. State Department official then complained that Korean military drills earlier this week to defend the easternmost Dokdo islets from an invasion "only worsen" the situation, according to Reuters.
The State Department in a statement said, "The timing, messaging and increased scale of military drills at Liancourt Rocks [a supposedly neutral name for Dokdo] are not productive toward resolving ongoing issues."
A high-ranking Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters Wednesday, "We cannot reverse our decision when the crux of the dispute has not been solved yet," and instead urged Japan to reverse its own decision to strike Korea from a list of preferential trading partners.
Kim Hyun-chong, Cheong Wa Dae's deputy national security adviser, said, "The ball is in Japan's court." Another Cheong Wa Dae official said, "Dokdo islets belong to us. We don't need anyone else's approval" for the defense drills.
The U.S. Embassy in Korea was taken by surprise by the summons but declined to comment, saying it is policy not to comment on closed-door meetings.
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