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Korea falls in love with NATO – EURACTIV.com


Korea’s recent opening of a mission to NATO is a clear sign that the Asian country is here to stay, as the defense alliance becomes an important part of Seoul’s future security strategy, writes Ramon Pacheco Pardo.

Ramon Pacheco Pardo holds the KF-VUB Korea Chair at the Brussels School of Governance and Professor of International Relations at King’s College London.

From government officials to oil thinkers, Koreans want to know why NATO considers their country a partner and what Korea can offer in return.

Even more interesting for those who sit at NATO’s Leopold III Headquarters, Korea’s love affair with NATO is no summer affair. This is part of a long-lasting and well-calibrated courtship display.

Korea’s recent opening of a mission to NATO is none other than the clearest sign that the Asian country is here to stay.

Certainly, there are immediate reasons why the Korean government sees the need to deepen ties with NATO. Above all, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine weighs heavily on Seoul. Not only is the invasion against international law, but it could set a dangerous precedent as tensions between China and Taiwan rise.

Thus, Korea has become the only Asian country to condemn Russia’s actions, to impose sanctions on Moscow and also to send offensive weapons to Ukraine, via third parties.

Privately, Korean policymakers do not deny that Korean military equipment can be used by Ukrainian forces, even though Moscow has warned Seoul not to sell weapons to NATO members who could then transfer them to the ‘Ukraine.

There’s a reason Russian leader Vladimir Putin recently warned South Korea not to transfer weapons (directly) to Ukraine. But it is already too late.

Yet South Korea’s rapprochement with NATO has more enduring and longer-term reasons.

For starters, the Korea-US alliance is now global in nature. It is a process that began at the end of the cold war and has become very clear over the past fifteen years.

Given that the United States continues to be NATO’s most important ally and pushes for the organization to engage with its four main Asia-Pacific partners, it is only natural that Korea deepen its ties with them. Yoon Suk-yeol, President of South Korea, had no doubts about attending the NATO summit in Madrid when he took office last May.

But US President Joe Biden reminded him of the importance of his presence for good measure.

Additionally, and at least as relevant, Korea has in recent years strengthened its security ties with NATO members such as Canada, Estonia, France, Norway, Poland and the United Kingdom.

These growing ties are partly related to Korea’s search for reliable partners to better manage US-China competition and partly to Korea’s search for like-minded partners to deal with growing threats from South Korea. North and China. In fact, the latter is becoming increasingly important to Seoul.

For example, Korea’s previous government led by Moon Jae-in joined NATO’s Cooperative Cyber ​​Defense Center to help guard against cyberattacks from those two countries. The Yoon government wants to double down on this policy.

It should be noted that from the point of view of the current government, there is no contradiction in strengthening ties with NATO, individual European and NATO countries and the EU at the same time.

It is not a zero-sum game.

Therefore, from Korea’s perspective, strengthening security ties with NATO has the added benefit of deepening ties with individual European countries as well as with the EU.

Values ​​and the ability to work with like-minded countries are another long-term driver of Korea’s rapprochement with NATO. Yoon has consistently stressed their importance in Korean foreign policy.

In recent weeks, Seoul has voted in favor of an investigation into China’s actions in Xinjiang before the United Nations Human Rights Committee; co-sponsored a resolution on human rights in North Korea at the UN General Assembly for the first time since 2018; and voted to condemn Russia’s attempt to annex Ukrainian territories, again in the General Assembly.

The new Korean government has also appointed a North Korean human rights envoy, a position that has been vacant since 2018. From Yoon’s perspective, paying more attention to values ​​in Korean foreign policy calls for closer ties with NATO.

After all, Seoul believes that Pyongyang, Beijing and Moscow are three sides of the same coin, so to speak.

Since China’s decision to impose sanctions on Korea after the latter agreed to the deployment of Washington’s THAAD anti-missile system, Korea has no illusions that its neighbor will not flex its muscles when it pleases. will seem.

Incursions into the Korean ADIZ and even airspace by the combined Sino-Russian forces have highlighted the growing military cooperation between the two. And North Korea’s votes at the UN in favor of Russia and criticism of NATO after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine make Kim Jong-un’s regime one of the very few governments to openly side with Putin.

NATO may not be the key for Korea to approach this trilateral cooperation. But this is part of the answer sought by the Yoon government.

Overall, Korea believes that NATO will become an important part of its future security strategy. His love affair with the organization is here to stay.