See More on Facebook


Terminating GSOMIA may send ‘wrong’ message to adversaries

Wartime OPCON transfer is contingent upon conditions being met, says top US military official stationed in Korea.

Written by

Updated: November 14, 2019

By terminating its bilateral intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan, South Korea risks sending the wrong message — that the trilateral alliance of South Korea, the US and Japan is weak — Gen. Robert Abrams, commander of the US-ROK Combined Forces Command, said Tuesday.

Marking his first year in office, Abrams, who also commands United States Forces Korea and the United Nations Command, spoke on a series of current issues, including the ongoing defense cost-sharing negotiations and the alliance, during a joint press interview.

“The fundamental principle of the information-sharing agreement was a clear message to the region that the Republic of Korea and Japan put aside, perhaps, historical differences and put at the forefront the stability and security of the region, because together we are much stronger for providing a stable and secure Northeast Asia,” Abrams said in the interview at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province.

“And without that, there is a risk of sending a wrong message that perhaps we are not as strong.”

In August, the South Korean government announced it would pull out from the General Security of Military Information Agreement with Japan, following a series of export controls Tokyo imposed on key industrial materials for Seoul.

The ongoing row between the two neighboring countries stems from last year’s rulings by South Korea’s top court, which ordered Japanese companies to compensate South Korean victims of wartime forced labor. After filing complaints, Japan brought the issue into the military and trade realms.

Abrams’ remark reiterates the position of the US, which played a role in facilitating GSOMIA when it was signed in 2016. With the intelligence-sharing pact due to expire at midnight on Nov. 23, US officials are calling for its renewal.

The South Korean government has maintained that it will only reconsider its decision if Japan first normalizes trade.

On the defense cost-sharing deal that is currently being negotiated between South Korea and the US, Abrams said South Korea should contribute more, highlighting that the money ultimately goes back into the South Korean economy.

Since 1991, Seoul has shouldered part of the costs of maintaining US troops stationed here under the Special Measures Agreement. The agreement mandates that South Korea pay in part for USFK to hire South Korean civilians, for the construction of military facilities to maintain the allies’ readiness and for other forms of support.

“The money ROK contributes are paying Koreans, they support us logistically or to build new facilities, to support US Forces Korea,” he said. ROK refers to the official name of South Korea, the Republic of Korea.

“So I want to be clear, that money is going right back into the Korean economy and to the Korean people. It’s not coming to me,” he said.

Abrams said he agrees with a recent statement by US Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris — that the South Korean government can and should pay more.

Commenting on the criticism many South Koreans have leveled against the US for demanding the increase, Abrams said the governments of South Korea and the US should do a better job of informing taxpayers about the defense cost-sharing deal.

While the administration of President Moon Jae-in is working together with the US to transfer wartime operational control authority to South Korea during its term, Abrams stressed that the wartime OPCON transfer depends on certain conditions being met.

“There are three conditions, we put it in writing in 2015, and now both sides have been working steadily to meet those conditions,” Abrams said. “We’ve made more progress in the last year than we had in the previous three years. And we have work to do.”

“So it’s not based on time, it’s based on conditions.”

The three conditions for wartime OPCON transfer are Seoul’s capability to lead the allies’ combined defense mechanism; its capacity for initial responses to the North’s nuclear and missile threats, and a stable security environment on the peninsula and in the region.

“If you look at the full arc of the ROK-US alliance since the 1950, we’ve had our ups and downs historically, and on the back end of the downsides, we always come out stronger and more resilient, and tighter,” he said.

“I have supreme confidence ROK military leadership will lead us in the future.”

Enjoyed this story? Share it.

The Korea Herald
About the Author: The Korea Herald is the nation’s largest English-language daily and the country’s sole member of the Asia News Network.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia

Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.

By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here


China-US trade deal bullish news for both countries, rest of world

From Chinese state media. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Saturday that the China-US deal on the text of a phase-one economic and trade agreement serves as bullish news for both countries and the rest of the world. Speaking at a joint press conference with Slovenian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Miro Cerar, Wang said China has, as always, been opposed to settling economic and trade disputes by imposing tariffs as there is no winner in a trade war. China has also rejected the use of unilateral pressure as it violates the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO), said Wang. He pointed out that following rounds of back-and-forth negotiations, China and the United States have agreed on the wording of a phase-one economic and trade agreement, and the US side has promised to phase out additional tariffs on Chinese products. The agreement demonstrates the spirit

By China Daily
December 16, 2019


Biegun arrives in Seoul amid deadlock in NK-US nuclear talks

Pyongyang says it conducted “another crucial test” at Sohae site. US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun arrived in Seoul on Sunday for a “close coordination” with allies amid the deadlock in the denuclearization talks with Pyongyang just weeks before the communist regime’s year-end deadline. A day before, North Korea issued statements to announce that it had carried out “another crucial test” at a satellite launching site, warning the United States to “hold off” any action to “rattle” the regime. During his three-day trip here, the US special envoy is expected to meet with officials here to discuss on the

By The Korea Herald
December 16, 2019


Myanmar to be sincere in implementing Rohingya repatriation deal

This according to the Bangladeshi Foreign Minister. Bangladesh expects that Myanmar would be more tolerant towards Rohingyas after facing trial at the International Court of Justice, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said today. “My expectation is that Myanmar would be sincere in implementing the bilateral deal that signed with Bangladesh on repatriating Rohingyas from Bangladesh,” he told journalists at his ministry office in Dhaka. “Myanmar has invited me before a case lodged with the International Court of Justice. In response, I told that I would go there when the Rohingyas will go back to Myanmar,” the foreign minister said. “I also invited Myanmar to visit Bangladesh to talk to their Rohingya people and to understand their expectations,” Momen said. Globally it has been established that there was a massive crime committed against the Rohingyas, that was des

By Daily Star
December 16, 2019


10 US senators criticise Suu Kyi for representing military’s interest

Suu Kyi is in the Hague defending Myanmar from genocide accusations. Ten US Senators have severely criticized Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi for representing the military’s interest before the International Court of Justice and defending the mass atrocities committed against the Rohingyas and other ethnic minorities. “Representing the Burmese military’s interest before The Hague and defending the mass atrocities committed against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities would undermine what remaining credibility you have before the international community, including in the US Congress,” said a letter to Suu Kyi issued on December 9. The Senators said a defense of the Burmese military at this high-profile international forum is also an affront to the inclusive, multi-cultural and democratic Burma that she claims to champion. They said when Buddhist nationalism is on the rise in

By Daily Star
December 13, 2019


India under Modi is moving systematically with a supremacist agenda, says PM Imran

Imran Khan made the comments after India passed a controversial citizenship requirement. Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday that India, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been moving systematically with a Hindu supremacist agenda. The prime minister was referencing the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill passed by India’s upper house amid protests on Wednesday. The bill will let the Indian government grant citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants who entered India from three neighbouring countries before 2015 — but not if they are Muslim. Modi’s government — re-elected in May and under pressure over a slowing economy — says Muslims from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan are excluded from the legislation because they do not face discrimination in those countries. Taking to Twitter, Prime Minister I

By Dawn
December 13, 2019


China, US in constant touch to resolve trade issues

China and the United States are in constant touch to resolve pending trade and economic issues, the Ministry of Commerce said on Thursday. The comment came ahead of Sunday’s US deadline for another scheduled round of tariff increases on Chinese imports worth almost $160 billion. If a trade deal is not struck by Sunday, computer monitors and toys will be among the Chinese export items likely to be affected. Gao Feng, a ministry spokesman, said the Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council has already worked out tariff exemptions on some soybean, pork and other products shipped from the US — the latest sign of tensions easing in the protracted trade conflict. The US seems to resort to brinkmanship by using a tariff deadline to pressure China in the ongoing trade talks for a phase one, preliminary deal, said Chen Wenling, chief economist at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges

By China Daily
December 13, 2019