U.S. congressman voices hope for extension of S. Korea-Japan intel pact

WASHINGTON-- The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday voiced hope that South Korea and Japan will renew their military intelligence-sharing agreement in the interest of peace and stability in the region.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) made the remark to reporters ahead of the Nov. 23 expiry of the General Security of Military Information Agreement. Seoul has said it will withdraw from the pact amid trade and historical disputes with Tokyo.

"I would prefer that they renew the agreement. I think the cooperation between South Korea and Japan and the U.S. is enormously important, again to maintain stability in the region, and to maintain peace and the positive relationships," Smith said on the sidelines of an event calling for passage of a bill ensuring U.S. citizenship rights for Korean and other adoptees.

"I hope South Korea and Japan can renew that arrangement," he said.

The U.S. has urged South Korea to reconsider its decision to withdraw, citing the three countries' mutual interests in security cooperation against North Korean and Chinese threats.

The topic is expected to be raised during meetings involving U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley and their South Korean counterparts in Seoul this week.

Milley told reporters last weekend that the American public poses questions about the need to station U.S. troops in South Korea and Japan.

"I know that Chairman Milley supports our presence there very strongly," Smith said. "The reason that we have to make the case to the American people -- stability in that part of the world is enormously important to us. Our relationship with South Korea, to begin with, helps us check the power of North Korea, which has publicly threatened the U.S."

Asked about the possibility of withdrawing the 28,500 American troops from South Korea, he answered, "I would be opposed to that ... Because North Korea is still a threat. Peace has not been achieved in that region. North Korea is still launching missiles and building nuclear weapons or having, possessing nuclear weapons. So I think our presence is still needed in the region."

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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