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Korea - Foreign Relations

Moon Jae-in and his party called for what they call "balanced diplomacy" with respect to the US and China, and, on the North Korea issue, they've argued that sanctions aren't the solution. Regarding the deployment of the US missile defense system THAAD, Moon had not definitively said whether he would reverse the decision. But he called for public and parliamentary discussion of the issue, and dialogues with the US and China.

Another liberal who passed for a centrist 'outsider,' rival for Moon Jae-in was software magnate, Ahn Cheol-soo, who was the 2017 presidential nominee of the People’s Party. Ahn Cheol-soo called for parliamentary approval and also suggested a referendum concerning THAAD deployment. He advised that Seoul should not choose between Beijing and Washington, but through dialogue could manage strategic partnerships with both.

Moon Jae-in said 24 January 2017 said that South Korea should seek balance between the United States and China in dealing with diplomatic challenges. He unveiled this view in a roundtable discussion with security and intelligence experts. "Tension between the U.S. and China could increase in Northeast Asia," he said, touching upon rising uncertainty over the new US administration. "We need to advance the 70-year-long alliance with the US while developing the strategic partnership with China.... Seoul also needs to strengthen relations with Japan and Russia and European and Asian countries. In the face of new challenges, we need to expand our cooperation with countries all over the world."

He supports a Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons -- meaning that Pyongyang should denuclearize itself and that U.S. tactical nuclear weapons cannot be allowed in South Korea. He hopes to resume operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex -- an economic project jointly run by Seoul and Pyongyang that was suspended in February last year. Moon also said the agreement reached between South Korea and Japan in 2015 on wartime sexual slavery has to be re-negotiated because it was reached at a time when former president Park's close friend was meddling in government affairs.

The Roh administration, in which Moon served as chief presidential secretary, viewed South Korea as a balancer in Northeast Asia. The strategy emphasized the self-reliance of South Korea in resolving its Northeast Asian issues, including North Korean threats. Moon vowed to push projects for economic reunification as a step toward political reunification.

Moon Jae-in, candidate of the Democratic Party of Korea, on 23 April 2017 unveiled his plan to make the Korean Peninsula nuclear-free. His denuclearization concept looks like the aborted diplomatic strategy sought by the government of President Roh Moo-hyun. The US demands the North scrap its nuclear program as a precondition for the negotiation. The North won't give up its atomic bombs under any circumstances. "I will persuade North Korea to come to the negotiating table," he said. "I will not try to make North Korea act first, but try to make both North Korea and the US act simultaneously." His remark echoed China's solution to North Korean threats. China wants the North to stop developing nukes and missiles, and the US and South Korea to stop military exercises at the same time.

"I will never allow any military provocations by North Korea. I will prevent war based on thorough crisis management and a strong Korea-U.S. alliance," he said during a press conference at the National Assembly. "I will put a priority on securing military capabilities to curb the North's nuclear and missile threats."

Moon said 20 April 2017, “With regard to China, we should make it clear that if [North Korea] goes ahead with a nuclear test, the THAAD deployment becomes unavoidable.” Moon, a former chairman of the Democratic Party of Korea, said Tuesday that South Korea can "push ahead" with the ongoing installation of a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery if North Korea's military threats continue to escalate. "The deployment of the THAAD battery can be pushed ahead with if North Korea carries out nuclear provocations again, and makes advances in its nuclear program," he said in an interview with the Chosun Ilbo newspaper 11 April 2017.

"I will persuade China to resume the six-party talks and the U.S. to improve its relations with the North, and North Korea to come to the negotiating table," he said 23 April 2017, stressing Seoul should take the initiative rather than relying on China. Moon pledged to speed up the deployment of the Kill Chain pre-emptive strike system and the Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) plan, and improve independent surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities as part of such efforts. He also promised to advance the timetable for OPCON transfer, which is scheduled to take place in the mid-2020s, although he did not specify an exact timeline.

The political turmoil in South Korea over the 2017 impeachment of President Park Geun-hye exposed a sharp division in the country over national security policy, with conservatives who solidly support the US alliance and progressives who want to maintain friendly ties with China. Opposing Park also meant opposing her hard-line approach to dealing with North Korea, which failed to slow Kim Jong Un’s resolve to increase his country’s nuclear and ballistic missile capability.

China opposed the controversial U.S. THAAD missile defense shield that the Park administration agreed to deploy. Beijing strongly denounced THAAD as an unnecessary and provocative military escalation that also posed a potential threat to China. China reportedly retaliated against South Korea by informally putting limits on imports and tourism. Many anti-Park activists say the potential military advantage of THAAD is not worth the growing tension it is causing with China.

Every election in South Korea is a confrontation between the country’s two major ideological forces: the conservatives and the progressives. The conservatives support a hard line in relation to North Korea and are believed to follow the U.S. foreign policy. The ruling Saenuri Party, President Park Geun-hye and her government belong to this group.

Although South Korea's progressives are not planning to break their alliance with the United States, they are trying to build a more or less independent foreign policy. The most obvious difference between the conservatives and progressives is seen in how they view their policy towards North Korea. The progressives are more likely to actively develop cooperation with Pyongyang or at least try to act in this direction.

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Page last modified: 13-05-2018 17:52:49 ZULU