South Korea and the U.S. have decided to significantly expand the traditional alliance centering around security into areas for global cooperation such as economy, new technology and climate change at the first summit since President Joe Biden took office. The alliance for new technology may provoke China as it means Korea would actively participate in reorganizing the supply chain, which is a strategy of the U.S. to keep China in check. The joint statement by the two countries included the virtual Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), Taiwan and South China Sea issues, which may cause opposition of China.
The Moon-Biden summit did not stop at making basic promises to strengthen cooperation to stand up to China’s rise. The two countries pledged to build a new supply chain led by the U.S. for chips, communication networks (5G and 6G), batteries and more that came with a detailed description, and even agreed on the amount of investment.
There is a chance of China showing its obvious wariness after interpreting the result of the summit as Korea joining the U.S. to keep China in balance. China’s state-owned online news outlet already showed signs of opposition, referring to the Quad, Taiwan and South China Sea issues that had been mentioned at the summit as “interference in domestic affairs.” It may also suspect that the complete lifting of missile distance limits by ending the missile guidance as a step for the U.S. to deploy a long-distance missile.
But no area in the summit directly targets China. Even in issues that may need a sophisticated approach for China, the two countries briefly mentioned their long-held stances. The Indo-Pacific strategy of the U.S. is intermingled with Korea’s new southern policy and emphasizes the importance of openness, transparency and inclusiveness of the Quad. Seoul chooses a prudent diplomacy that supports the U.S. but does not participate in the stance actively.
The Korea-U.S. alliance for the past 70 years occasionally has seen ruptures and delays but has advanced to the multi-faceted alliance of today. The asymmetric alliance of the past in which Korea depended on the U.S. is changing into a mutually reciprocal partnership. The expansion and deepening of the alliance may make neighbor countries raise their guard, which is a dilemma of security and alliance. Korea’s diplomatic capacity is garnering attention as it should tighten the alliance with the U.S. while holding onto cooperation with China.