Foreign ministry hits Blue House over pact
By Lee Tae-hoon
A senior government official Sunday criticized Cheong Wa Dae for pressuring the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) to push ahead with the failed signing of a controversial military pact with Tokyo last week.
“MOFAT opposed Cheong Wa Dae’s push to approve the deal in a close-door Cabinet meeting, but to no avail,” the official said asking for anonymity on fears of political backlash.
“Cheong Wa Dae expressed its view that it was an issue that should be dealt with by MOFAT. Eventually it became a matter that the foreign minister should handle.”
The official pointed out that Defense Ministry Kim Kwan-jin planned to sign the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which would allow the two sides to exchange military intelligence, during his visit to Tokyo in late May.
“The Defense Ministry demanded that Minister Kim sign the deal in place of the foreign minister, but anyhow Kim’s visit to Japan was eventually cancelled,” he said, stressing that there has been strong negative sentiment against the signing of the pack with the former colonizer.
He alleged that top U.S. officials demanded a bilateral military cooperation pact between Seoul and Tokyo at the “two-plus-two” talks between Korea and the United States held in Washington last month.
“Korea’s working level officials urged their U.S. counterpart to tone down “the bilateral cooperation between Korea and Japan” as a trilateral issue involving Korea, Japan and the United States remains sensitive,” the official said.
He acknowledged that the military information sharing pack should have been handled in a more democratic and transparent matter to win the understanding of Koreans, who still bitterly remember atrocities committed by Japanese during their colonial rule (1910 to 1945).
Meanwhile, the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) demanded the dismissal of Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik over the government’s attempt to sign a controversial military pact with Tokyo.
The demand came two days after Seoul abruptly postponed the signing of the military intelligence agreement with Tokyo under pressure from the National Assembly and the public.
Revelations that the Cabinet approved the deal Tuesday without notifying the public offended the Korean public further and prompted calls for scrapping the accord.
“This is an issue for which the prime minister should take responsibility, and if the president does not dismiss him, the National Assembly has no choice but to call for a non-confidence vote,” DUP Chairman Lee Hae-chan said
“(The government) did not submit a single report to the National Assembly while entering into an agreement with a country that invaded us,” Lee said.
He noted that it would be wrong for the Korean government to recognize the Japanese Self-Defense Forces as a military and seal an agreement with them, allowing access to military intelligence.
Seoul’s foreign ministry announced less than an hour before the planned signing Friday it will put off the accord and discuss the issue with the National Assembly.
Hours later, the prime minister apologized to the public in a statement, saying the government will handle the issue in a responsible manner.
“Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan was distressed over the matter on Friday,” an insider said on the condition of anonymity. “He could endure criticism from opposition parties and civic groups, but was helpless once the ruling party, which should be on the same side, turned its back on him.”