S. Korea warns Japan of rolling back decision to suspend GSOMIA’s termination

SEOUL-- South Korea can "reactivate" the now-suspended decision to terminate a military information sharing pact with Japan, depending on progress in negotiations over Tokyo's export restrictions and wartime forced labor, the foreign ministry said Thursday.

South Korea decided in August to terminate the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) in a tit-for-tat move after Japan imposed export restrictions against the South in connection with a row over wartime forced labor.

But the planned termination was halted at the last minute in November as the South decided to suspend the termination decision after Japan agreed to hold negotiations about the export curbs and the wartime forced labor issue.

On Thursday, the foreign ministry warned the South can terminate GSOMIA depending on the situation again.

"The government will continue to urge Japan's complete removal of export curbs through dialogue between the trade authorities and through diplomatic channels," the ministry said in a report submitted to the National Assembly.

"Depending on the discussions regarding the removal of export curbs and solutions for the forced labor issue, it is possible to consider reactivating the notification for GSOMIA's termination," it said.

Last month, Japan partially lifted its export control on one of the three products subject to the tightened screening. While Seoul welcomed the move as progress, it called it insufficient to defuse the feud.

President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held their summit talks in China last month and agreed on the need to resolve the matter through dialogue despite the differences. It was their first one-on-one talks to have taken place in 15 months.

On the Middle East tensions, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told the parliament that a withdrawal of South Koreans from Iraq is not being considered, saying, "No damage to South Koreans in Iraq has been reported so far."

"As most of our people live near industrial areas in provinces away from the risk of possible retaliation, we find that we are not at the stage of considering a withdrawal," she said.

"We will keep close tabs on how the situation progresses, and we will brace for a possible withdrawal in case of a sudden change."

The ministry vowed to remain alert and operate around the clock for a prompt response to any emergencies in the region concerning the safety of South Korean nationals.

"We will maintain the 24-hour emergency response system until the situation stabilizes," it said in the report.

Travel to Iraq has been banned since 2007, but some 1,570 South Koreans live there on special government permits, mainly for business reasons. The majority live south of Baghdad, far away from the targeted Iraqi bases in the western and northern parts of Iraq.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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