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The Place of the North Pacific Region in South Korea’s Indo-Pacific Strategy Document

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South Korea’s Asia-Pacific Strategy Document was published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Korea on December 28, 2022 with the title “Free, Peaceful and Prosperous Indo-Pacific Region”.[1] The document consists of a total of 4 chapters and 43 pages. The aforementioned document is very important in terms of showing South Korea’s Indo-Pacific strategy, current situation in the region, threat perceptions, bilateral relations with actors, political stance, targets, foresights, determinations, alliances and geopolitical and geoeconomic perspectives of South Korea. 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, the evaluation made on the North Pacific region is important both in terms of South Korea’s regional attitude and the general framework of the region.

The analysis of the document over the North Pacific begins with the inference that South Korea is geographically located in the region, and therefore the North Pacific has a significant importance for the Seoul administration.

At this point, the fact that South Korea places more emphasis on this region than other regions in the document shows that the Seoul Government generally puts its center-periphery relationship and its own security perceptions in the foreground within the framework of a free, peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific strategy.

In the document, it was emphasized that bilateral and multilateral agreements with the states of the region on the basis of mutual benefit should be deepened. From this point of view, it can be thought that South Korea does not have the capacity to deal with states such as North Korea and China, which it perceives as threats in the region, on its own. Currently, Seoul attaches great importance to the military exercises it organizes with the United States (US) and Japan, as North Korea’s nuclear power makes the security framework of the region fragile.

However, it can be said that Seoul’s expression of the need to develop bilateral relations with other capitals aims to both soften the conflict environment and prevent possible conflicts by building both regional security and interdependence. In addition, the emphasis on collective effort can be read as the West, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and especially the USA wants to expand their alliance in the Indo-Pacific region and Seoul has a positive approach to this.

At the same time, South Korea emphasized in the document that its alliance relations with the United States would be strengthened. In fact, both actors maintain a strong dialogue in the foreign policy production processes on the basis of the “common enemy” and common goals in the region. However, South Korea demonstrates a will to further deepen the cooperation. This can be interpreted as Seoul’s need for the support of the West within the framework of regional security.

South Korea, which has shown a serious will for the development of alliance with the USA, emphasizes common values such as democracy, human rights and the rule of law. This situation and the stated values also reinforce the Western perspective that South Korea has already adopted.

In addition to all these, it is clearly stated in the document that the concept of “liberal democracy” lies at the basis of the alliance with the USA. As a matter of fact, it is known that the new world order led by the USA and NATO after the Cold War was established within the framework of the “liberal democracy” of the West. This means that South Korea is positioned within the framework of Western values, both ideologically and geopolitically. At this stage, it can be stated that the main aim of South Korea is to get the support of the West against the threats originating from North Korea through values such as democracy and human rights.

On the other hand, it was underlined in the document that an important pillar of the alliance with the USA is the position in technology production, economy and supply chains. In addition, it has been said that the union with the USA and Japan is not only caused by the threat of North Korea, but also covers many other areas of cooperation. It can be argued that Seoul is trying to ensure the permanence of the alliance through those statements.

In the last part of the document, it is stated that the cooperation developed with Japan in the context of common values will be deepened. It has also been said that more mature relations with China will be established in the context of reciprocity and compliance with international law. In addition to all these, it was mentioned that cooperation with Canada, Mongolia and other countries based on mutual interest would be developed.

At this point, mentioning the name of Japan and emphasizing that cooperation will be developed can be claimed to be an effort by Seoul to prevent Tokyo’s increased defense expenditures from harming the regional alliance. However, mentioning the names of countries such as Canada and Mongolia can be evaluated as South Korea does not want to overlook any actor and attaches importance to all states in line with its regional and global welfare goals. On the other hand, the emphasis on international law towards China is very important. However, it was also stated that relations with China would be matured. From this point of view, it can be argued that South Korea will try to keep the channels of dialogue with China open.

As a result, the Seoul administration has attached special importance to the North Pacific Region in the strategy document it has published. It can be stated that this importance stems from the dangers felt by South Korea in this region.


[1] “Strategy for a Free, Peaceful and Prosperous Indo-Pacific Region”, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Republic of Korea, https://www.mofa.go.kr/viewer/skin/doc.html?fn=20221228060752073.pdf&rs=/viewer/result/202212, (Date of Accession: 08.01.2023).

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 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’ın çalışmalarına katkıda bulunan Gülten’in başlıca ilgi alanları; Amerikan Dış Politikası, Asya-Pasifik ve Uluslararası Hukuk’tur. Gülten, iyi derecede İngilizce bilmektedir.