Seoul keeping eye on China

Seoul, South Korea:  

As other close allies of the US – including Japan, Australia and the European Union – long ago joined in and announced their own Indo-Pacific guidelines and strategies, a number of pundits saw the move by the newly inaugurated Yoon administration as a clear sign that South Korea was choosing to get closer to the US rather than China.

Seoul is expected to join a proposed US-led chip alliance known as the “Chip 4” initiative, which also includes Japan and Taiwan, said Erika Na.

South Korea needs to devise a “strategy that fits into the gap” between the United States and China’s hegemonic race in the Indo-Pacific region, according to analysts.

Their recommendation comes after South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol revealed a plan in May to formulate the country’s own Indo-Pacific strategy framework, reported The Star.

Announced in a joint statement after US President Joe Biden’s visit to Seoul, the plan could herald a significant policy shift for South Korea.

It also came after South Korea said it would participate in the US-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which is aimed at countering China’s regional influence.

“It’s really essential that we put a lot of thought into how we are going to find our place in the context of the intensifying hegemonic race between the US and China and the reorganising of orders in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Kim Sang-bae, a professor of international politics at Seoul National University.

The previous Moon Jae-in administration’s regional policies, referred to as the New Southern Policy, encompassed only Southeast Asian countries, reported Erik Na.

“In the past few months, it seems like we are getting closer to the US and getting further away from China,” Kim added, speaking on Thursday during an event held by the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, a government-funded economic research institute.

The US strategy in the region has expanded to include the wider Indo-Pacific region since the former presidential administration of Donald Trump.