The U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) was officially launched on Monday. Heads of state from 13 countries announced that discussions will be open on trade and supply chains, clean energy, carbon neutrality, infrastructure, and anti-corruption. President Yoon Suk-yeol also participated by video conference, saying that “Backed by strong alliance, Korea will do its part to open the era of joint prosperity in the Indo-Pacific area.”
IPEF, which kicked off by U.S. President Joe Biden’s first visit to Asia, is designed as a counterbalance to China, although there is nothing in wording in imply. It is an initiative to build a new order, along with Quad, a strategic security dialogue, denouncing China’s spying activities and trade regulation violations. China has been opposing the idea as an attempt to turn Asian countries in favor of U.S. hegemony.
Despite China’s opposition, the number of IPEF participants, which was initially seven, has increased to 13. IPEF had eased requirements, allowing participants to pick and choose from the four areas of cooperation rather than full endorsement, to encourage countries hesitating to join due to their ties with China. More countries are expected to join.
With a new government in place, Korea has repositioned itself towards the U.S., moving away from its ambiguous position somewhere between the U.S. and China. It is a natural move following a new Cold war order. No one can find fault with decisions based on principles, norms, and national interests. However, we should keep up strong cooperation with China. We may play the role of embracing and encouraging China’s participation in IPEF discussions. It is time to prioritize communications with China.