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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Aug. 24)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:03 August 24, 2022

Need for win-win diplomacy
Korea, China should prepare for another 30 years

Wednesday marks the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between South Korea and China. The anniversary is significant as the two countries have made phenomenal progress in bilateral ties over the past three decades. However, it is doubtful whether Seoul and Beijing can deepen their partnership further down the road. In fact, the escalating Sino-U.S. rivalry is casting a dark cloud on the diplomatic horizon in Northeast Asia.

Now the Korea-China relationship stands at a crossroads: whether to move forward toward co-prosperity, or backward to confrontation and conflict. It depends on how both countries redefine their bilateral ties in the rapidly changing world. If China sees South Korea as a pawn in the chessboard of great power games with the U.S., the two sides cannot maintain their strategic cooperative partnership anymore.

Against this backdrop, the new Yoon Suk-yeol administration has vowed to strengthen the country's alliance with the U.S. to ensure its security amid growing military threats from North Korea. Of course, this does not necessarily mean that a better alliance with America comes at the cost of Seoul-Beijing ties. In reality, however, South Korea is increasingly forced to choose between the U.S. and China because the G2 powers are in fiercer competition for greater regional and global hegemony.

As things stand now, Seoul finds it ever more difficult to strike a balance between Beijing and Washington. The conservative Yoon administration appears to be moving closer to the U.S., apparently a policy shift from his liberal predecessor's tilt toward China. However, the Yoon government is not yet ready to run the risk of losing the nation's largest trading partner, China, which accounts for a quarter of Korea's total exports.

Now, the intensifying great power competition is making it even harder for South Korea to keep its long-standing policy of depending on the U.S. for security and relying on China for economic growth. Some pundits point out that such a policy can no longer hold water. They argue that the country has no other choice but to join the U.S.-led international coalition against China.

President Yoon has already announced its membership to the U.S.-initiated Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) which is allegedly aimed at countering China's growing regional and global influence. The Yoon administration is also moving to join the U.S.-proposed semiconductor alliance, also known as Chip 4, which will allow America to create its own supply chains and exclude China from them.

In repose, China is trying to prevent South Korea from participating in the alliance. It has repeatedly requested the Yoon administration to stick to the previous Moon government's policy of "Three Nos": no additional deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system here, no participation in the U.S. missile defense network and no trilateral military alliance with the U.S. and Japan. Beijing should refrain from making such demand because the THAAD issue is a matter of Korea's security and sovereignty.

Both Seoul and Beijing need to develop their relations based on mutual respect and trust. They should go beyond the emerging new Cold War conformation and pursue a win-win strategy to deepen their partnership. It is time to prepare for another 30 years of coexistence and co-prosperity.

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