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Yoon should prepare foreign policy change

Posted March. 14, 2022 07:49,   

Updated March. 14, 2022 07:49


President-elect Yoon Seok-youl was briefed by Seo Hoon, head of National Security at Cheong Wa Dae, on recent trends of North Korea and major foreign affairs events including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The briefing also includes up-to-date reports on North Korea’s preparations to fire ICBM, resume nuclear facilities operations and removing South Korean facilities installed at Mount Kumgang. “We are unable to issue a definite position at this point,” said Kim Eun-hye, the spokesperson for Yoon. “We hope that North Korea will come forth to the negotiation table to achieve full denuclearization.”

Yoon’s cautious approach in dealing with foreign affairs and national security issues is noticeable. He had heavily criticized the incumbent government’s foreign policies during his presidential campaign and promised to bring major changes. His prudent behavior reflects his determination to understand current security challenges and refine foreign policy approach. It would not serve national interests to expose discord in policy before Yoon officially takes office.

Yoon’s foreign policy would be significantly different from the Moon Jae-in administration’s. First, there will be inevitable changes to the current foreign policy of prioritizing dialogue in dealing with North Korea as Yoon has advocated for the principle of reciprocity in North Korea policy. As it has always done in the past during government change, the North is coming up with provocations to take a strong approach. Yoon’s new foreign policy is expected to shift to include adjacent four major countries (the U.S., China, Japan, and Russia) to pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

Yoon had repeatedly said that President’s Moon’s foreign policy of weighing in on foreign ties with China and North Korea has undermined South Korea-U.S. alliance. Thus, foreign policy priorities will also shift to strengthen U.S. alliance and cooperation with the U.S. and Japan. Such change, however, may lead to friction with China. Moreover, Yoon’s promise to additionally assign THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) is likely to be highly debated. Against this backdrop, Yoon’s foreign policy requires refined tuning to position South Korea to promote good relationship with China while reinforcing ties with the U.S. and Japan.

Yoon will take over the responsibilities as president during hard times. Strategic competition between the U.S. and China mounts while Russia triggers a war, creating severance and division. South Korea’s geopolitical position, with nuclear-armed North Korea next to its borders, is more challenging than ever. We need to come up with a strong foreign policy that serves our national interests during these hard times. Such efforts should start with finding and deploying a competent foreign policy advisor that knows how to tone down and refine Yoon’s political rhetoric during the presidential campaign and effectively communicating his messages.