US continues pressure on Korea to stand against China

22-Oct-2020 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

The United States is raising pressure on Korea to participate in its anti-China alliance, with Washington seeking unity with its allies against Beijing’s assertiveness in the region.

Korea has been reluctant to adopt the US-led Indo-Pacific strategy, aimed at containing China, despite repeated calls from its biggest ally, because a stand against China would come at a large cost, given that it is Seoul’s largest trading partner.

Adm. Philip Davidson, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (Korea Times)

Adm. Philip Davidson, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (Korea Times)

On Tuesday, Adm. Philip Davidson, the commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command, made a visit to Defense minister Suh Wook and discussed the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, according to the Ministry of National Defense.

However, the meeting was seen as unusual given that the 52nd Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) was just held a week ago in the US, where Suh met with his American counterpart Mark Esper. Davidson also accompanied them.

In that respect, Davidson’s visit raised speculation that the US would pressure Korea to jump on the anti-China bandwagon although the Korean defense ministry denied it.

“The US badly wanted to be able to cite Korea’s participation in or support for the anti-China coalition in the joint communique (after SCM), but to no avail,” said Park Won-gon, a professor of international politics at Handong Global University.

“In that respect, the US commander may have come here and talked about the issue with the defense minister. One of the key missions of the Indo-Pacific Command is to counter Chinese aggression.”

Also, the US government wants to include Korea in an expanded version of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), a strategic forum established in 2007 to contain China. The Quad is comprised of Australia, India, Japan and the US, but the US wants to develop it into an Asian version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) by inviting Korea, New Zealand and Vietnam to a so-called Quad Plus.

In August, US deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun mentioned including Korea along with New Zealand and Vietnam in the Quad Plus framework. He took a step back, Tuesday, by saying the US was not planning to invite Korea immediately.

“There’s no designed policy for Quad expansion that is being advocated by the United States,” Biegun said in a telephone press briefing, adding that the Quad is an undefined entity, so it is premature to discuss its expansion.

But still he indicated there is room for possible expansion of the existing Quad.

“We’re not necessarily advocating for a Quad Plus, but rather a continuation and regularisation of the Quad with an eventual goal of understanding how it can be best formalised and then also, of course, welcoming cooperation with any country in the Indo-Pacific that could defend a free and open Indo-Pacific that guarantees sovereignty and prosperity for its members,” he said.

During his trip to Japan for a Quad meeting earlier this month, US State Secretary Mike Pompeo also said other countries could be added “at the appropriate time” once the current Quad is institutionalised.

“The US government has been institutionalising the Quad in an apparent bid to turn it into an anti-China multilateral alliance in the Indo-Pacific if not an Asian NATO and regardless of who wins in the US election, the policy will be pursued in the medium to long term,” Park said.

“In that sense, the US pressure on Korea will continue.”

Also on Tuesday, Esper told a webinar hosted by the American think tank Atlantic Council, “We expect them (US allies) to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States in confronting Chinese bad behavior and Russian aggression.”



Category: Korea

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