South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday left for Britain to join the G7 Summit at the invitation of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who requested the participation of leaders from Australia, India, South Africa and South Korea at the first face-to-face multilateral meeting since start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Taking this opportunity, President Moon plans to hold a bilateral meeting with his counterparts from Britain, Australia and the European Union, each. Possibly, gatherings of Seoul, Washington and Tokyo or of Seoul and Tokyo may occur in casual settings.
Although Moon joins as a guest to the G7 Summit, his participation represents a heightened level of South Korea's global state. The G7 has served as a community of global leaders to set international norms and standards. South Korea comes close to the G7 leaders given its economic competence ranking 10th in the world and a considerable level of democratic advancement. The forthcoming G7 summit will clarify how far South Korea has come on global stage.
It was expected last year that South Korea could be part of an expanded form of the Group of Seven as per then-U.S. President Donald Trump's argument. However, the spread of the coronavirus made a face-to-face meeting unavailable while some members objected the joining of another candidate, Russia, after which related discussions lost momentum. The upcoming summit in Britain may reignite some interest in a larger group of world leaders than that of the existing seven, putting South Korea's diplomatic capabilities to test.
It is highly likely that U.S. President Joe Biden will make a sophisticated effort to build a front against China during the meeting where he makes an official multilateral diplomatic debut. China may come under condemnation for suppressing human rights, abusing diplomatic influence and engaging in unfair trade. The gist of the U.S.-led Summit for Democracy in the second half of this year and the Britain-proposed D10 Initiative is to solidify international coalition to safeguard democracy and human rights. If South Korea keeps standing on the sidelines without adding a voice to their chants and steps back being intimidated by China's warning it not to be swept by a biased force, it may not be able to secure any seat in the international community.