Expectations and Concerns about South Korea-US Summit

Expectations and Concerns about South Korea-US Summit

U.S. is to launch the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework(IPEF) soon with South Korea being an initial member of the framework

President Yoon Suk-yeol and U.S President Joe Biden hold their first summit meeting in Seoul tomorrow. The summit takes place only eleven days following Yoon’s inauguration, and it is the first time in 29 years that the first summit of the new administration was held by the U.S. President visiting Seoul. It is also the first time in 60 years that South Korea is the first stop of the U.S. President’s trip to Asia.

The early summit was driven by a few external factors. First, Japan is hosting Quad Leaders’ Summit, a strategic security dialogue between the U.S., Japan, India, and Australia. Second, North Korea is escalating the tension in the Korean peninsula by the possible resumption of nuclear testing, and the U.S. is to launch the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework(IPEF) soon with South Korea being an initial member of the framework.

Putting these factors aside, the U.S. President’s trip to Seoul underscores high expectations for the Yoon administration. A senior fellow from the Lugar Center noted that President Biden would want to reaffirm President Yoon’s comments on China during his election campaign during the Summit and left the comment that Washington has found that the previous Park and Moon administration’s ‘pro-China’ policies of the last 9 years rather disappointing.

Overall, we can see how this summit would go. Washington needs Seoul as its alliance in order to counter China’s influence in the Asia-Pacific region. In this regard, South Korea is the one standing at the forefront against North Korea’s nuclear threat, and it is the one Washington should rely on to stabilize the supply chain of the key industries, including semiconductors, batteries, etc. in a New Cold War Era. These facts are almost certain to outline the purpose of the summit.

The U.S’ high expectation is a time pressure for South Korea to make its stance clear. In turn, we could achieve the rock-solid Seoul-Washington alliance, and the strongest ally in economy and security on our side. Compared to Japan, South Korea’s reliance on China is too great, which makes joining the U.S’efforts – such as the IPEF – a preferable option. However, we should not forget that in a world where economy and security cannot be separated, we are standing on the border between the two powerhouses, and the new administration should keep its flexible and inclusive diplomatic sense.

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