The defense chiefs of South Korea and Japan will meet bilaterally in Thailand next week just days before the planned expiry of their intelligence-sharing pact, Seoul officials said Saturday.
Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo is scheduled to hold talks with his Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, on Sunday, in the Thai capital of Bangkok on the sidelines of the 6th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defense Ministers' Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus), the officials well-versed in the issue said.
South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo (Yonhap)
The upcoming meeting is expected to provide them a chance to discuss the thorny issue of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which is to expire next Saturday.
In August, South Korea announced its decision to end the three-year-old military information-sharing agreement after Japan imposed export curbs on Seoul amid a row over wartime forced labor.
Japan wants to maintain the pact, and the United States has also called for its renewal. But South Korea has maintained the stance that any reconsideration would only be possible if Japan first retracts its export restrictions against the South.
While meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, President Moon Jae-in also said it is difficult for Seoul to share military information with Japan as Tokyo cited a lack of trust in South Korea and imposed export restrictions against the South, according to Cheong Wa Dae.
Moon, however, vowed to continue to make efforts toward security cooperation among the three sides.
A trilateral meeting among Jeong, Esper and Kono is also planned for Sunday, which is also expected to be dominated by discussions for trilateral security cooperation, according to the officials.
During a joint press conference with Jeong, Esper called on his two Asian allies to "sit down and work through differences," as the termination of the key security tool would only benefit North Korea and China.
Jeong said he also wanted to maintain the pact and expressed hope for "good discussions" with Japan to seek a breakthrough.
The multilateral event, slated for Sunday and Monday, is expected to bring together top defense officials from ASEAN countries and eight member states -- South Korea, the United States, Japan, China, Russia, Australia, New Zealand and India, according to the ministry.
During his four-day stay in Bangkok that began Saturday, Jeong is also planning to hold bilateral talks with his counterparts from China, Thailand and New Zealand, it added.