South Korea unveils new Indo-Pacific strategy barely mentioning China

Yoon Suk Yeol
In this photo provided by South Korean Presidential Office, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol talks on the phone with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida spoke by phone Thursday and agreed that North Korea’s recent missile tests are “a serious, grave provocation” that threatens international peace. (South Korea Presidential Office via AP) AP

South Korea unveils new Indo-Pacific strategy barely mentioning China

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The South Korean government released its complete Indo-Pacific strategy, and one of its pillars is inclusiveness — even including China.

The 43-page strategy, which was released on Wednesday and is titled the “Strategy for a Free, Peaceful, and Prosperous Indo-Pacific Region,” barely mentioned China, which acts as a reminder that Seoul has to balance its relationship with its biggest trade partner in Beijing and its main military ally in the United States.

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In its lone mention of China, the document calls them a “key partner” and the report said Seoul “will nurture a sounder and more mature relationship as we pursue shared interests based on mutual respect and reciprocity, guided by international norms and rules,” per the South China Morning Post.

“The Indo-Pacific strategy is a comprehensive regional strategy aimed at facilitating our national interests in the region, whose geopolitical importance is ever growing,” Director of National Security Office Kim Sung-han said during a press conference on South Korea’s Indo-Pacific strategy. “President Yoon Suk Yeol has been reiterating the importance of freedom and solidarity, and the values are reflected in the Indo-Pacific strategy.”

The report indirectly mentions South Korea’s concerns about China’s military actions toward Taiwan, which have gotten more aggressive over the course of this year, noting “the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait for the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and for the security and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific.”

“We intend to expand cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to effectively address transnational security challenges, including emerging technologies and climate change,” according to the report, per the Korea Times. “We also seek to gradually expand nodes of cooperation with the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad).”

The strategy, according to U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan, “sets forth a comprehensive approach that demonstrates the commitment of President Yoon and the Korean people to upholding universal values such as the rule of law and human rights. The ROK’s goal to expand its cooperation with other allies and partners across the Indo-Pacific will strengthen our shared ability to advance international peace, security, and promote nuclear nonproliferation.”

Also on Wednesday, Yoon instructed officials at an unscheduled meeting with members of his office and the National Security Office to retaliate against any North Korean provocations.

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“President Yoon told them to punish and retaliate in no uncertain terms in response to any provocation by North Korea, saying that is the most powerful way to deter provocations,” senior presidential secretary for press affairs Kim Eun-hye said, according to Yonhap News Agency.

Over the weekend, the South Korean military failed to shoot down a group of North Korean drones that crossed the border for the first time in five years. While they scrambled warplanes and attack helicopters, they were not able to shoot down any of the drones that ultimately flew back home or disappeared.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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