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Middle power diplomacy and development cooperation

Posted April. 30, 2015 07:26,   


The purpose of diplomacy is alliance. Korea has never selected its ally by itself for the past thousand years. This is why there had been no diplomacy in Korean history until now.

In the era of the three ancient kingdoms, there were an alliance between Shilla and the Tang Dynasty and an alliance between Baekje and Japan. Since then, however, Korea had paid tributes to China. Although many small nations formed alliances among themselves in the era of civil war in China, the dynamics began to change after Emperor Qin Shi Huang unified China. China and its neighboring countries did not know diplomacy for a long time. China had opium wars with western countries because it forgot what diplomacy is and knew only about tributes.

Being distant from China, however, Japan knew roughly the meaning of alliance while competing among itself. It realized the importance of alliance when it retaliated Russia in the Russo-Japanese War after it was humiliated by the Russia-led Triple Intervention -- secured by Russia, France, and Germany, subsequently required Japan to retrocede the Liaodong Peninsula to China in return for an additional indemnity.

Joseon had no chance to experience an alliance as it became a colony of Japan since its establishment. When it gained independence, North Korea was forced to ally with Russia and South Korea with the U.S. Then, with the emergence of China, however, Korea is given an option to choose an ally for the first time in a thousand years.

Unlike Korea, Japan has many experiences in alliance. It is not getting to the core to see Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the U.S. as a new honeymoon relationship. The relationship is rather appropriate for the relationship between Yasuhiro Nakasone and Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and Junichiro Koizumi and George W. Bush in the 2000s. What Abe did is a qualitative change that changes the nature of the U.S.-Japan alliance.

Abe’s ultimate goal is a “democratic security diamond," which is inserting India to the alliance of Japan, the U.S. and Australia. It is to confront China with democracy, a shared value of the four countries, which makes a diamond shape starting from Hawaii. China is a big country and will become even bigger. However, if it is surrounded by its neighboring countries, it can become Japan’s worthy opponent. This is also what the U.S. which has a hard time policing the world hopes for.

The “democratic security diamond” alliance does not include Korea. We thought that Japan would thank Korea for joining the alliance and it thought it would not care even if Korea does not join the alliance. But it wasn’t. By raising issues over shared values with China, Japan began to show its intention that Korea, which is now closer to China would rather become an onerous obstacle to the alliance, if it joins the alliance.

It was confirmed once again that Korea is behind Japan in the priorities of the U.S. alliance. Although it is a sad reality, Korea cannot simply ally with China. China is still in an inferior position to the anti-Chinese group. Moreover, Korea is not even a balancer that can change the dynamics of power.

Thucydides’ “The History of the Peloponnesian War” shows the tearful alliances of Greek city states for survival. A state that is forced to choose an ally between two competing parties is not in a happy situation. It is saying such a nonsense because it has never done a true diplomacy. A state should side with a winning alliance and it sometimes has to endure humiliation to stand with the winning alliance. At least, it should avoid being isolated. Then, where Korea’s diplomacy is heading for?