South Korea urged to be 'alert' to US pressure
Deepened cooperation with China in line with Seoul's real interests
Published: Jan 09, 2023 09:47 PM
China South Korea Photo:VCG

China South Korea Photo:VCG

South Korea should be "alert" to US pressure in confronting China amid a meeting with Jose W. Fernandez, the US undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, Chinese observers said, as deepened cooperation with China is where South Korea's real interests lie. 

Unlike China, which is willing to further open up to the world and pursue a globalized, win-win approach when establishing relations with other countries, the US has proved many times that it will only sacrifice the interests of its "allies" to crack down on potential competitors and maintain hegemony, observers said.  

The comments come as Jose W. Fernandez, US undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, is in Seoul this week to meet with his South Korean counterpart Lee Do-hoon, the second vice foreign minister, to discuss energy, emerging technologies and supply chains, Korea Joongang Daily reported on Monday.

Their meeting will be their second in a few weeks. In December, Lee traveled to Washington to meet with Fernandez and members of the US Congress. The two are expected to hold a press conference following their meeting on Tuesday, the report said.

"One of the main reasons for the visit is that the US has desperately hoped to bring South Korea on board in forming its small circle to exclude China from the global chip industrial chain, and South Korea is an important link for it to achieve that goal," Gao Lingyun, an expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times on Monday.

But Seoul has maintained a good balance between China and the US, Gao said. 

Moreover, from the perspective of the global supply chain, South Korea is deeply integrated into the overall industrial development of China, a format that has lasted for decades, and is completely in line with the interests of the nation and its business community, experts said.

Data from China's General Administration of Customs showed that trade volume between China and South Korea surpassed $360 billion in 2021, which was 72 times the figure in 1992 when diplomatic ties were established.  

During the January-November period of 2022, the actual use of foreign direct investment into the Chinese mainland expanded 9.9 percent on a yearly basis to 1.16 trillion yuan ($171.09 billion), among which investment from South Korea climbed by 122.1 percent.

Ma Jihua, a veteran industry analyst, pointed out that the frequent meetings also reflect that South Korea and the US have demands for each other - while the US urgently needs South Korea's cooperation in relocating industrial chains, South Korea hopes to find cooperation from the US in terms of security.

Neither can fully agree on the other's requests, thus they can only communicate and negotiate back and forth - a move that may be unable to generate results although it can "make a show" for domestic politicians, Ma told the Global Times on Monday.

"But this does not rule out that the two sides may 'partially compromise,' which we need to pay close attention to," Ma said.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said at a China-South Korea business dialogue in mid-December that China and South Korea should jointly maintain the stability and smooth flows of regional and global industrial and supply chains, and further expand economic and trade cooperation by completing talks for an upgraded bilateral free trade agreement.

Li said that China is ready to work with South Korea to uphold a good neighborly friendship, mutual respect and equal treatment, and to promote the sound and steady development of bilateral ties, leveraging their complementary strengths and deepening cooperation in fields such as high-tech manufacturing, the green economy and big data.

South Korea and China are neighboring countries with strong connections not only in the economy and trade sectors, but also in the security sphere. China is where South Korea's real interests lie, and Seoul's best strategy is to balance its ties between China and the US, and stick to that, experts stressed.