Biden’s swearing-in raises hope, uncertainty for alliance with S. Korea

22-Jan-2021 Intellasia | YNA | 6:02 AM Print This Post

With an eventful chapter of unorthodox American diplomacy over, the launch of the Joe Biden administration is raising both hope and uncertainty for its alliance with South Korea, as the two countries face an unpredictable North Korea, a muscle-flexing China and an array of challenges from within their partnership.

Biden’s swearing-in on Wednesday following the tumultuous departure of his predecessor, Donald Trump, came as Seoul seeks to close ranks with Washington to advance its stalled agenda of entrenching lasting peace with North Korea and broaden the security alliance to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and other shared challenges.

But South Korea’s efforts to cement cooperation with the US could falter if they diverge on how to address the North Korean nuclear quandary, an escalating Sino-US competition and historical animosity between Seoul and Tokyo, analysts warned.

“The keyword for Biden’s diplomacy is ‘normalisation,’ which means to do away with uncertainties from the unorthodox brand of diplomacy and restore traditional alliancessomething that might have already resonated with much of the State Department personnel,” Nam Chang-hee, a professor of international politics at Inha University, said.

“In this broad scheme of things, South Korea may need to consider a flexible approach with some course correctioncompatible with that normalisationfor the stable management of its relationship with the US,” he added.

The last four years of US diplomacy have indeed been marked by unpredictability, blips and surprises as witnessed by diplomats both in Seoul and Washington having been stunned oftentimes by Trump’s policy tweets that seemed uncoordinated and incoherent at timesbut had profound consequences.

Now with Biden’s inauguration, hopes are growing that Trump’s transactional approach to US allies, such as South Korea, will be supplanted by a conventional form of diplomacy characterised by close communication with the allies and the pursuit of shared values like democracy and human rights.

Biden’s inauguration speech brought home his resolve to knit back the alliances.

“We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again. Not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s challenges,” he said in the speech. “And we’ll lead, not merely by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.”


Category: Korea

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