U.S. President Donald Trump delayed the G7 summit planned in June to September and said he would like to invite South Korea, Australia, Russia and India. “I don't feel that... it properly represents what's going on in the world. It's a very outdated group of countries,” he said. An insider of Cheong Wa Dae said that the presidential office hasn’t been notified yet, adding that it will discuss with the U.S.
It is a good thing that South Korea is invited to the G7 summit, which is known as the top advanced countries in the world, as it means that the nation’s stance in the world has been elevated. But South Korea needs to take it with caution at the same time. Above all, U.S. President Donald Trump made the invitation on the spot without an official discussion. It reflects his vision to create G11, going beyond G7, but the invitation seems to be more of a summit of “G7 and others” than G11.
Moreover, the conflicts between the U.S. and China are running up to the extremes. A White House official said that President Trump wanted to invite other countries to the G7 summit to discuss China. It means that Trump wishes to establish a line against China to put pressure. Australia and India that Trump wants to invite to the summit are core countries in the India Pacific strategy to hold China in check. If South Korea joins the party, the South Korea-China relations are bound to aggravate.
The South Korean government held a sectional meeting to adjust diplomatic strategies on Thursday and assessed the impact of the elevated U.S.-China conflicts on South Korea was limited. But China strongly opposed to the replacement of outdated equipment at the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province on the next day, which was reminiscent of the THAAD retaliation of China.
South Korea has not taken a side in most of the recent global issues — the trade ware between the U.S. and China, responsibility issue of COVID-19 and new security law in Hong Kong. But maintaining neutrality may be difficult when the Washington-Beijing conflicts become fiercer. Resolving the North Korean nuclear issue would be difficult amid the conflict between the two nations.
South Korea cannot stay silent and expect the conflicts between its security alliance and biggest trade partner to go away. It should not make a rash decision, but the decision should not be forced either. As of now, South Korea needs to prepare to make the best decision for the country’s interest and survival by focusing its diplomatic capability on managing risks that the new cold war between the two superpowers would cause. It should stay vigilant not to miss the right timing.