By Song Sang-ho
SEOUL, May 20 (Yonhap) -- The United States has already briefed South Korea about its initiative to diversify global supply chains away from China, a senior Washington official said Wednesday, amid concerns the scheme could further escalate Sino-U.S. geopolitical tensions.
Keith Krach, undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, made the remarks in response to a question from Yonhap News Agency during a teleconference organized by the Asia-Pacific Media Hub of the U.S. State Department.
"We talked about the Economic Prosperity Network (EPN) initiative to unite countries like the U.S. and Republic of Korea," he said, touching on the discussions he had with Korean officials at the allies' Senior Economic Dialogue in Seoul in November.
South Korea and other countries have been closely watching what the economic initiative will shape up to be as observers view it as a scheme to break China's dominance in global supply chains that has figured prominently during the COVID-19 pandemic as seen in its capacity to churn out medical and quarantine supplies.
The push for the EPN has put many countries, particularly U.S. allies, in a tricky diplomatic position amid concerns that it could lead to a challenging strategic choice between the two major powers mired in an increasingly intense rivalry over technology and security.
Krach explained that the Economic Prosperity Network consists of like-minded countries, companies and civil societies around the world that will operate under the same set of "democratic values" -- in an apparent reference to operating principles that China could balk at.
"If you look at the network for all areas of economic collaboration that work under a set of principles ... those would be commerce, trade, digital, energy, infrastructure, education, research, health care, money flows," he said.
"Those operating principles are things that we would call democratic values -- transparency, integrity, accountability, respect for the rule of law, respect for property of all kinds, respect for sovereignty of nations, respect for the planet and respect for labor rights," he added.
The teleconference was attended by Krach; Cordell Hull, acting under secretary of commerce for industry and security; and two other officials.
It focused on Washington's recent decision to amend export rules that would require non-American chipmakers using U.S. software and technology to secure export licenses for their semiconductor shipments to Chinese tech giant Huawei, as well as on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.'s plan to invest in a US$12 billion semiconductor factory in Arizona.
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