S.Korea should not sacrifice own security for US ambitions by joining the Quad
Published: Mar 09, 2023 12:15 AM
Political chocies Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Political chocies Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

According to Yonhap News Agency on March 8, a senior Seoul official said that South Korea plans to "proactively accelerate" its participation in the Quad working group. 

There are several reasons why South Korea is choosing to signal its desire of strengthening cooperation with the Quad at this time. 

First, there is growing pressure from the US. The US hopes that South Korea will join more international organizations led by the US, in order to implement its Indo-Pacific Strategy.

Second, the intentional rightward turn of the Yoon Suk-yeol government and its plan to compensate its own citizens who were forced to work in Japanese factories during World War II have also eliminated obstacles for South Korea's participation in other international organizations and corresponding dialogue mechanisms joined by Japan.

In addition, South Korea is set on blindly following the US, which has a lot to do with the Yoon government as a right-wing government. Under constant pressure from the US and with the increasingly tense situation on the Korean Peninsula, South Korea now seeks ties with the Quad.

Japan's attitude toward South Korea has been somewhat contradictory. Nonetheless, considering that the four-party dialogue mechanism will become a five-party one, which is a pivotal consideration of the US' Indo-Pacific Strategy, South Korea's joining is welcomed. Washington now needs the support of its allies to implement its Indo-Pacific Strategy, so it needs to bridge the differences between its allies in various ways.

Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times that the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the US' view of China as a systemic rival have led countries around the world to choose sides. South Korea, as a traditional military ally of the US, is no exception. Moreover, with the support of the right-wing government, South Korea is leaning toward the US. Then, the US' strategy becomes South Korea's strategy - the US must get hold of South Korea, and South Korea must follow the US. 

In fact, the US hopes to expand NATO to the East, but this is difficult. Therefore, Washington has come up with other political tactics, one is to expand the Quad, while another is to expand the AUKUS. Through these measures, a new version of the Indo-Pacific military alliance will be created to contain China's development in the region. As a result, the US pulling South Korea into the military alliance in the region is in line with its strategy and also an important consideration for the eastward expansion of NATO.

Song noted that if South Korea joins the Quad, it will mainly help the US build missile defense systems, whether it is the further deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense or the purchase of RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 from the US to build a sea-based missile defense system. However, providing military bases is not South Korea's advantage. After all, to confront North Korea, China, and Russia, South Korea has no geographical advantage and will only invite growing trouble.

"South Korea joining the Quad will inevitably have a negative impact on its relations with China. In terms of supply chain cooperation, South Korea has already proposed to reduce its economic dependence on China. Some manufacturing industries have begun to shift to Vietnam, and the high-tech industries are gradually decoupling from China," said Li Chengri, an assistant research fellow from the Institute of Asia Pacific Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

South Korea must be reminded that as a sovereign country, it enjoys autonomy to make its own decisions to join any organization, but it should do so by taking into consideration its biggest neighbor and largest economic partner, China.

In terms of politics and military, the strengthening of military cooperation between the US, Japan, and South Korea will inevitably have an impact on China, which is certainly not conducive to stability in the Asia-Pacific region. South Korea's security cannot be built at the expense of China's security. South Korea needs such an understanding. Even India, a formal Quad member, is wary of being made use of in Washington's strategic calculations. Let's see which country in Quad is so dim-witted to be willing to act as a pawn of the US.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn