Just six hours before South Korea's military intel-sharing pact with Japan, GSOMIA, was set to expire, Seoul's presidential office on Friday evening announced to suspend the termination.
But a key condition is that it can terminate it at any time and that eventually Tokyo lifts its export curbs on Seoul.
"Under the condition that the effect of GSOMIA can be terminated at anytime, the South Korean government will nullify the decision on August 23rd to end the pact. to which the Japanese government has expressed understanding."
In August, South Korea announced its decision to withdraw from the deal after Japan stripped South Korea of its preferential treatment in export procedures, on top of imposing tougher restrictions on the export of three high-tech materials citing a breach of trust on national security issues.
Seoul sees those as retaliation for a Supreme Court ruling ordering Japanese companies to compensate South Korean victims of wartime forced labor.
Since, Seoul has been adamant that it could only reconsider GSOMIA if Japan first changes course,… while Tokyo said that export restrictions and GSOMIA are different matters that need to be dealt with separately.
South Korea had renewed the pact every year since it was signed in November 2016.
On top of keeping GSOMIA valid, Seoul decided to temporarily suspend a WTO petition against Japan's exports controls while they hold bilateral talks on the matter.
In a press conference held almost simultaneously, the Japanese government said it agreed to resume working and director level discussions with South Korea over the export issues.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called South Korea's decision a "strategic choice," in view of the tripartite security cooperation between Seoul, Washington, and Tokyo.
Concerns have been mounting about the fallout GSOMIA's termination could have, on not only relations with Tokyo, but also the Seoul-Washington alliance.
The U.S. has been pressuring South Korea to retract its decision. saying GSOMIA is vital for the three way security cooperation in the region and that the pact's termination will only benefit North Korea and China.
Whether Friday's last minute turnaround is to become the start of mending strained Seoul-Tokyo ties remains to be seen but it appears the two sides have gained some more time, to discuss sticky trade and historical issues while trying to find a mutually beneficial solution or at least a viable compromise.
Kim Min-ji, Arirang News.