The United States has urged South Korea and Japan to consider signing a “standstill agreement“ on an escalating dispute over trade to buy time for negotiations, Reuters reported from Washington on July 30 (local time).
Washington is trying to be helpful in the dispute, the report said, quoting a senior U.S. official, who noted that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was expected to meet with foreign ministers from Japan and South Korea at a regional conference in Bangkok on Aug. 1.
Accordingly, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Bangkok is expected to be a watershed in the Korea-Japan conflict.
The U.S. proposal for a standstill agreement will not resolve the disagreement between the two countries, but it will have the effect of blocking them from taking additional hostile measures for a certain time to allow bilateral negotiations to take place, an official said. However, it was not yet determined how long the standstill will last, the official said.
The U.S. proposal came amid speculation that Japan may approve on Aug. 2 an amendment to the Export and Trade Control Order that excludes South Korea from its “whitelist” of countries eligible for trade benefits. The South Korean government has adopted a hard line, suggesting it would not extend the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with Japan. A decision on whether to extend it or not should be made until Aug. 24."
"We may consider scrapping the agreement, depending on the situation," said Kang Kyung-hwa, South Korean minister of foreign affairs, on July 30.
The United States recently proposed a three-party meeting among the vice foreign ministers of South Korea, the United States and Japan in line with an Asian trip by David Stilwell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs of the United States. But the Japanese side did not respond to the proposal.
The Trump administration has somewhat distanced itself from the escalating feud between its two East Asian allies. But many experts say that the United States has begun to intervene as this conflict may undermine anti-North Korean security cooperation among South Korea, Japan and the United States and have a negative impact on U.S. companies.