The Place of Oceania in the South Korean Indo-Pacific Strategy Document

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The strategy document, which sets out South Korea’s policies regarding the Asia-Pacific region, was published on the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Korea on December 28, 2022, with the name “Free, Peaceful and Prosperous Indo-Pacific Region”.[1] This document consists of a total of 4 parts and 43 pages. Thay document is of critical importance in that it provides information about South Korea’s geopolitical, geoeconomic and geostrategic reading of the region.

This document also reflects Seoul’s strategy, cyclical stance and security perspective towards the region. As a matter of fact, in the last part of the second part of the document titled “Vision, Cooperation Principles and Regional Scope”, regional-based strategies are discussed. At this point, it can be argued that the assessment made on Oceania is of great importance due to the fact that the region covers Australia and New Zealand, which are important allies of the West, includes many small islands and is geographically close to South Korea. In addition, it can be said that Seoul’s strategy on this region contains clues in terms of the security architecture that the country plans to build.

In this context, firstly, it was stated that Australia and New Zealand are important allies of South Korea in terms of common values and interests, and that Seoul has a common intellectual affinity with these countries. In this context, it can be said that although both Australia and New Zealand are geographically located in the east, they have a geopolitical and geostrategic orientation based on the West, the United States of America (USA) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Especially since Canberra is a member of AUKUS, which includes the USA and the United Kingdom, it is an actor with which the West develops close dialogues.

On the other hand, Australia is also an ally of the USA in the Quadruple Security Dialogue (QUAD). New Zealand is one of the actors that develops a close dialogue with the organization due to its participation in the “QUAD+” meetings. As a matter of fact, it can be argued that this situation puts Australia in an important position for the West in terms of encircling China and fighting the nuclear power of North Korea. Because Australia is the only country in the Asia-Pacific Region within AUKUS. However, the country is also a member of QUAD, along with Wellington. This situation creates a common denominator for Washington between Canberra, Wellington and Seoul.

On the other hand, the document emphasized the Korean War and by drawing attention to the special ties established on the occasion of this war, it was said that South Korea would increase its strategic dialogue and cooperation with the aforementioned countries in the Indo-Pacific Region. At this point, it has been clearly emphasized that Australia and New Zealand are important partners of South Korea and that cooperation with these two states will be deepened and developed both in the Indo-Pacific Region and globally. As a matter of fact, the mention of the Korean War here can be read as an emphasis on common history. Because this situation can be interpreted as trying to create a strong dialogue idea in the mentality of both societies and country elites.

It was then emphasized that Australia is an important strategic partner of South Korea and that Seoul is pleased with the extensive economic relations developed with Canberra. In this context, it aims to deepen South Korea’s national defense framework with Australia on new cooperation issues such as defense industry, security, underground resources, combating climate change and supply chain.

Undoubtedly, defense and security emphases are important. Because, as mentioned above, South Korea and Australia are two important parts of the Western-based alliance. It is noteworthy that Seoul emphasizes the need for security and defense, especially in the regional rivalry with China and North Korea.

In the following part of the document, New Zealand was mentioned and it was emphasized that Seoul is Wellington’s fifth largest trading partner, emphasizing that the economy-based relations between the parties will continue to be developed.

In the last part about Australia and New Zealand, it was stated that South Korea will work closely with both countries on maintaining the rules-based international order. In this context, it can be deduced that the West is trying to strengthen its influence over the aforementioned actors for the continuation of the regional and then the global order, and tries to strengthen its own front by increasing the consolidation of these states.

On the other hand, it has been said that South Korea will improve its relations with the Pacific countries that share the Pacific Ocean. First of all, the emphasis was placed on combating climate change, and it was stated that the problem faced by the Pacific countries was a problem that all humanity had to deal with. Therefore, it was emphasized that a long-term strategy should be developed with Pacific countries within the scope of the “2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent”. In addition, it was stated that South Korea will further its alliance relations with these countries in the fields of climate change, health, maritime and fisheries, and renewable energy.

As expected, it is very important for Seoul to talk about new areas of cooperation, as it includes the sub-text that cooperation will not be limited to defense and security perspectives only. Because the document in question is a strategy document, not a security document. As a matter of fact, the document is aimed not only to talk about defense and security-based cooperation, but to reveal a general strategy for the region.

Moreover, creating the impression that South Korea only wants to develop cooperation over defense concerns may create a situation of avoiding cooperation in the eyes of its allies. For all these reasons, although the main scope of the document is based on security, Seoul has mentioned many different areas of cooperation.

As a result, Oceania is an important region for Seoul due to its geopolitical location, geographical proximity and the actors in it. As a matter of fact, South Korea has frequently emphasized this situation in the document. At the same time, the presence of important allies such as Australia and New Zealand in this region makes Oceania a prominent geography for South Korea.

[1] “Strategy for a Free, Peaceful and Prosperous Indo-Pacific Region”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Republic of Korea,, (Date of Accession: 16.01.2023).

Zeki Talustan GÜLTEN
Zeki Talustan Gülten, 2021 yılında Yalova Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden “Amerikan Dış Politikası” başlıklı bitirme teziyle ve 2023 yılında da Anadolu Üniversitesi Açık Öğretim Fakültesi Dış Ticaret bölümünden mezun olmuştur. Halihazırda Marmara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda Tezli Yüksek Lisans öğrenimine devam eden Gülten, lisans eğitimi esnasında Erasmus+ programı çerçevesinde Lodz Üniversitesi Uluslararası ve Politik Çalışmalar Fakültesi’nde bir dönem boyunca öğrenci olarak bulunmuştur. ANKASAM’da Asya-Pasifik Araştırma Asistanı olarak çalışan Gülten’in başlıca ilgi alanları; Amerikan Dış Politikası, Asya-Pasifik ve Uluslararası Hukuk’tur. Gülten, iyi derecede İngilizce bilmektedir.