Photo/IllutrationPrime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the ASEAN summit in Bangkok on Nov. 4. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

A key Japan-South Korea intelligence-sharing agreement has been given a new lease on life just hours before it was due to expire.

Seoul announced that the administration of President Moon Jae-in would temporarily extend the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), reversing the administration's earlier decision to scrap this crucial military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan.

The outcome itself is a relief, but none of the fundamental problems that brought things to this point have been addressed yet.

To avert any recurrence of the unreasonable bickering of the past months, both Seoul and Tokyo must start working in earnest to restore health to their relationship.

Japan, South Korea and the United States have been using the GSOMIA as their main conduit for security intelligence-sharing. The possibility of the treaty's discontinuation has always raised concerns about the future of that collaboration.

With North Korea continuing to act up, it was truly unnecessary and foolish of Tokyo and Seoul to let their relationship deteriorate to the present low point. Now that the GSOMIA has been spared expiration, both countries must stop their downward spiral that has done nothing but harm to their citizens.

When Seoul notified Tokyo in August of its intention to scrap the GSOMIA, that was in reaction to Japan's tougher export control measures against South Korea.

Seoul stressed on Nov. 22 its readiness to terminate the pact again any time, and demanded that Tokyo respond appropriately.

But no matter how far South Korea's anti-Japanese public opinion may have escalated at home, that does not justify using a security issue as a bargaining chip.

Not only North Korea, but also China and Russia have also taken advantage of the deep strains in Japan-South Korea relations to resort to provocative military actions. Had Seoul given any serious consideration to the situations at home and abroad, terminating the GSOMIA could not have been an option.

At the same time, Tokyo also bears a heavy responsibility for improving its ties with Seoul.

Japan's stiff export control policy against South Korea, issued abruptly in July, was effectively nothing short of a retaliatory measure against Seoul for its handling, since the end of last year, of the issue of compensation for wartime Korean laborers.

The export control measures not only alarmed South Korean manufacturing businesses, but also intensified public opinion against Japan's "high-handedness."

South Korean visitors to Japan have since decreased drastically, to the dismay of the tourist industry, and this has also seriously impacted personal exchange programs of all sorts.

But now that the Moon administration is refraining from any further escalation of retaliatory action, Japan must regain its sanity.

The government needs to give serious thought to its export control policy and remove measures that are punishingly strict in nature.

The real issue that lies between the two countries now is how the two nations should deal with the rulings of South Korea's top court, which ordered Japanese companies to pay compensation to wartime Korean laborers.

Governmental dialogue on crisis control has just opened unexpectedly over the GSOMIA. Seizing this chance, Tokyo and Seoul must strive to keep this dialogue going, while hastening to come up with a framework for resolving the wartime Korean laborers issue.

Both Moon and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe must snap out of their thinking that every concession made to their opponent constitutes a political defeat.

Any politician worth their salt ought to know that it is their duty to make the public understand that genuine diplomacy boils down to envisioning a future that truly benefits the public, even if it isn't popular at the time.

The two leaders need to take their first step together to improve the bilateral relationship in its entirety, by complying fully with the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and Economic Cooperation between Japan and the Republic of Korea that was signed in 1965 as the foundation on which the relationship stands.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 23