South Korea’s Geoeconomic Response to the United States’ Geopolitical Approach

  •  Ki-Su Kim    


The United States “Indo-Pacific strategy” itself entails geopolitics. Since 2017, the Indo-Pacific has emerged as a major strategic region for America’s diplomacy and security. Against this backdrop, the Indo-Pacific strategy extends both the “Asia Rebalancing Strategy” and the “Asia-Pacific Security Alliance” regime to the Indian Ocean, while seeking to bring emerging countries, such as China and India, into the U.S.-led international order. Major East Asian countries are actively employing economic means to advance their geopolitical goal -- reshaping the regional order in their own favor. The U.S. has shown a confrontational and exclusionary attitude toward China in terms of politics, economy and security, while the ASEAN has sought to promote inclusiveness by publicly expressing opposition to the exclusion of China. The ASEAN highlighted economic cooperation with China, while the U.S. focused on military and security aspects. The Indo-Pacific strategy will not be able to succeed without the participation of the ASEAN that serves as a crucial geopolitical link between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Another important factor is that unlike former U.S. President Obama, who championed the Asia-Pacific rebalance, President Donald Trump does not show keen interest in the Indo-Pacific strategy. At the same time, President Moon Jae-in has been cautious about engaging in security issues that go beyond the Korean Peninsula or the Northeast Asia -- namely joining in any collective move to contain China. Currently, South Korea is grappling with the geopolitical challenges by expressing support for the ASEAN's geoeconomic approach. Instead of choosing whether to participate in the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy, South Korea is seeking common ground between the strategy and its “New Southern Policy.” In other words, the New Southern Policy is a kind of buffer zone. South Korea is taking a geoeconomic response that focuses on developing the regional economy rather than adhering to the strategic and military role of the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy.

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