Japan, S.Korea’s dilemma set up by Washington

Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/1 21:34:51

Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT

South Korea's dilemma set up by the US has emerged as its Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha recently attended a diplomatic strategy meeting with a major focus on the US-initiated project named Economic Prosperity Network aiming to restructure global industrial chains post-pandemic to reduce their reliance on China's manufacturing. 

The question, however, is that whether the US could really form a united front with Japan and South Korea through the project to decouple with China, as it has set up a dreadful dilemma for these countries between their trade partner and military ally. It's hard for them to pick a side between China and the US, and it'll end up costing them enormously if they did.

Led by the US, the so-called Economic Prosperity Network project also intended to involve its "trustworthy" partners - Japan, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Korea, Vietnam and others, according to media reports.

In fact, the US did put some thought into the project. For instance, some of the involved countries and regions are capable of forming different industrial chains based on each one's advantage in the global supply chain. The related sectors range from infrastructure, energy, and digital business to trade, investment and others. 

Though the project has shown certain foresights for the post-pandemic economic recovery, it came up with a wrong premise of "anti everything that related to China". The precondition sets up a dilemma for Japan, South Korea and others who maintain a tight connection with China in terms of economy and culture. 

With an ambitious assumption of the project, the US, who was keen on bilateralism, even surprisingly called for the participation of Latin American countries based on multilateralism. Colombia, Brazil and others also expressed their expectation of the US moving some part of its industrial chains from China to South America.

The regional industrial relocation is a normal selection under the market rules, and symbols of the global economy's open environment for development. However, the US project's precondition of standing against China has brought artificial risks to Japan and South Korea's companies in the Chinese market, which maintains cost advantages, promising consumption prospects and huge consumption potential. Any strategic misjudgment or inappropriate choice made by Japan or South Korea will not only go against the will of their companies in China, but will also damage the countries' investment image and direct harm to their economies.

When looking at the project closely, it reflects the Cold War mentality of the US when it comes to economic cooperation or benign competition. It inclines to target its strategic competitors based on ideology which will not bring in any benefits to the globalization post-pandemic, and will cast a shadow on the vision of Japan and South Korea's regional cooperation based on their long-insisted multilateralism, including China-Japan-South Korea FTA and East Asia integrated cooperation.

Meanwhile, it is obviously a lack of vigilance for some people thinking that the new born project would not impact much. Since March 20, senior officials from the countries involved in the project have been holding meetings nearly every Friday to talk about related issues, according to media reports. It is not a move to be taken hastily.

Since the project obviously adopted an unfriendly attitude toward China, what Japan and South Korea will chose will also affect China although it will impact more on their own interest structures. China should keep alert, because sometimes an involver may not have a clear assessment of the overall situation to make a right choice.

The article was compiled based on an analysis written by Da Zhigang, director and research fellow of the Institute of Northeast Asian Studies at the Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn


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