S. Korea, U.S. vow to cooperate for 3-way security ties involving Japan
SEOUL, -- Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo met with U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton in Seoul on Wednesday, and vowed close cooperation for trilateral ties involving Japan, his office said.
The meeting took place amid soured relations between South Korea and Japan following Tokyo's imposition of export restrictions on Seoul earlier this month, which sparked speculation that the ongoing feud could affect their military information-sharing pact.
"The two sides shared an understanding on continued security cooperation between Seoul and Tokyo, and agreed to cooperate closely for the development of such bilateral ties, as well as trilateral relations involving the U.S.," the ministry said in a release.
The U.S. voices strong support for the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) signed in 2016, which is a key element in the U.S.' pursuit of a trilateral security cooperation mechanism with its two major Asian allies -- Seoul and Tokyo -- to better counter North Korea's threats.
GSOMIA is supposed to be renewed every year, and the deadline for any objection by either side to its renewal for another year is Aug. 24.
In light of the call for the three-way partnership, Bolton said in his meeting with Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha shortly afterwards that Korea and Japan should pursue a diplomatic solution to the trade tensions, the foreign ministry said later in a release.
"Advisor Bolton and Minister Kang agreed to work closely together for a diplomatic solution through dialogue so that there won't be any worsening of the situation between Korea and Japan, under the basic understanding that it will suit the interests of every party concerned," the ministry said.
Bolton and Kang agreed that there were "many challenges" in this region as well as elsewhere in the world, and vowed continued bilateral efforts to overcome the current issues concerning both countries.
They also reaffirmed that trilateral cooperation between Seoul, Tokyo and Washington is vital to achieving the common goal of complete denuclearization and regional stability on the Korean Peninsula, according to the ministries.
After the meeting with Kang, Bolton told reporters that he had "very productive discussions on a wide range of issues and looked forward to cooperation going forward," without taking any questions.
Bolton is in Seoul for a two-day trip that began Tuesday following a visit to Japan. Earlier in the day, he also held talks with his South Korean counterpart, Chung Eui-yong.
His visit comes at a critical time as Korea is embroiled in an escalating row with Japan stemming from a longstanding wartime issue. It also coincides with Tuesday's intrusion by Chinese and Russian military planes into Korea's territorial airspace and its peripheral air defense zone.
In the talks with Chung, Bolton proposed the U.S. and Korea consult closely in case of a similar incident in the future, presidential spokeswoman Ko Min-jung told a briefing later.
They also promised to work together on the issue of defense-cost sharing in a manner that would be "most reasonable and fair", according to Ko.
It was widely expected that Bolton would mention the U.S. initiative to form a coalition with its allies to safeguard shipping in the Strait of Hormuz off Iran and possibly call for Seoul to join the move by sending troops, naval vessels or contributing funds.
Sources said that the Hormuz issue was not raised during his meeting with Minister Jeong.
This is Bolton's second trip to Seoul in less than a month. He accompanied U.S. President Donald Trump in late June.
Source: Yonhap news Agency