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Japan-South Korea rift

US commander urges Seoul and Tokyo to drop GSOMIA feud

Defense ministers from South Korea and Japan to meet in Bangkok on Sunday

Gen. Robert Abrams, chief commander of the U.S. Forces Korea, speaks at a press conference in Pyeongtaek, South Korea.   © U.S. Forces Korea

PYEONGTAEK, South Korea -- The chief commander of the U.S. Forces in South Korea said Tuesday that close military cooperation between Tokyo and Seoul is critical for security in Northeast Asia and urged the two governments to put aside historical differences and focus on mutual interest.

Gen. Robert Abrams expressed worries that the termination of an intelligence-sharing agreement between Seoul and Tokyo would give the wrong signal that regional security had weakened.

"The fundamental principle of the information-sharing agreement was a clear message to the region that the Republic of Korea and Japan put aside, perhaps, historical differences and put at the forefront, the stability and security of the region," said Gen. Abrams in a news conference in Camp Humphreys to mark his first year as chief commander of the force.

"Together we are much stronger for providing a stable and secure Northeast Asia. And without that, there is a risk of sending a wrong message that perhaps we are not as strong."

An intelligence-sharing pact between Seoul and Tokyo is set to terminate on Nov. 22 as South Korea refused to renew the agreement as retaliation against Japan's tightening of exports to the country.

Japan is making final arrangements with South Korea for their defense ministers -- Japan's Taro Kono and his South Korean counterpart Jeong Kyeong-doo -- to hold talks on Nov. 17 on the sidelines of a regional meeting in Bangkok.

Kono is expected to demand that South Korea reverses its decision not to renew the General Security of Military Information Agreement, or GSOMIA, during the bilateral meeting.

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