Seoul: Under Crossfire in Asia…

Seoul: Under Crossfire in Asia… December 11, 2017

On November 9, Republic of Korea’s President Moon Jae-in launched the “New Southern Policy,” with the intention of deepening relations with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries. Already a member of the ASEAN + 3 platform since 1997 together with Japan and China, Seoul seeks to raise relations with Southeast Asia to an equivalent level of its relations with the United States, China, Japan and Russia. 

Seul’s new initiative in its near abroad is not very indigenous. Two presidential predecessors, Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye had also contemplated upon similar projects. Lee’s “New Asia Initiative” of 2009 targeted a deepening of relations between Republic of Korea, Australia and Indonesia. As for Park, she led the creation of the MIKTA in 2013, composed of Republic of Korea, Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey and Australia. The major reason behind these endeavours is that political relations with ASEAN member states have never been as strong and stable as economic relations. Although ASEAN is Seoul’s fourth-largest trade partner, diplomatic relations often remain under the shadow of great power-based politics. Today, while it has incurred the wrath of China by deploying on its territory US-originated THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence) missile system owing to the North Korean threat, Republic of Korea nevertheless attempts at breaking loose from the United States and decreasing its vulnerability vis-à-vis China. 

Issue 82