South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol had a phone call with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and welcomed the visit of the U.S. congressional delegation. President Yoon said that the delegation’s visit to the JSA would become a sign of deterrence against North Korea. Earlier, Ms. Pelosi visited Taiwan and strongly condemned China. On her visit to South Korea this time, the U.S. house speaker highlighted the need to strengthen the extended deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear threat. After meeting with her South Korean counterpart Kim Jin-pyo and a visit to the JSA, Ms. Pelosi went to Japan.
The phone call between President Yoon and Speaker Pelosi was not planned, and it may be seen as a compromise under diplomatic etiquette. For President Yoon, currently on vacation, it would have been an odd situation, where he is hanging in the wild between avoiding the visit by the ally’s house speaker and coming to work in the middle of the vacation, for him to meet Ms. Pelosi.
Maybe that was the reason for the presidential office’s disordered response over the meeting of the two. The presidential office made it clear that there would be no meeting between President Yoon and Speaker Pelosi, citing the president summer vacation. However, when some media outlets reported about the possibility of a surprise meeting, the presidential office said that the meeting was being mediated, and again retracted that there was no such mediation. Only on Thursday morning, the presidential office announced that President Yoon and Speaker Pelosi would have a phone call, stating that this was a decision in full view of the national interest.
In fact, Speaker Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan brought a fierce resistance from China and military tension and confrontation. China has embarked on military training that practically sealed off Taiwan both on the sea and in the air, and there is a distinct potential for collision. South Korea cannot look on with indifference. In fact, the Yoon administration, pursuing to rebuild security ties with China, marking the 30th anniversary of South Korea-China diplomatic relations on Aug. 24, feels hugely burdened to take a tough line with China .
As the new cold war intensifies, the importance of alliance cannot be overemphasized. However, for South Korea, which is at the forefront of the battlefield of the new cold war, it is important not to antagonize China, its biggest trading partner and neighboring country. The government must act in caution with a meticulous diplomatic strategy. If it is swayed by the public sentiment every time the protocol issue emerges, the government’s aim of becoming a global pivotal state will become unachievable.