South Korea needs to think more carefully about how to "balance" its relations with the United States and China, the outgoing South Korean ambassador to China said Friday, warning that China's "assertive diplomacy" could put Seoul in a dilemma.
While South Korea has repeatedly stressed the importance of Seoul-Washington ties, analysts say China's rise could put South Korea in a strategic dilemma amid possible conflicts of interests between the U.S. and China in Northeast Asia.
"Although Korea-China and Korea-U.S. relations are not said to be a 'zero-sum game,' there could be a situation where we are forced to make a choice between the two relations," Ambassador Kwon said.
"So, we need to think more carefully about how to strike a balance between China and the U.S.," Kwon said.
Referring to "China's rise" and "China's assertive diplomacy," Kwon said it is time for South Korea to pay more attention on its diplomacy with China.
Kwon made no mention of sensitive issues. During his 22-month stint in Beijing, however, China has voiced opposition to a possible deployment of an advanced U.S. missile-defense system in South Korea.
The U.S. has said it was considering deploying a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery in South Korea, home to about 28,500 American troops, to better cope with the growing threats of North Korea's nuclear and missile capabilities. In spite of international sanctions, North Korea continues to pose security threats to Northeast Asia and beyond, by developing its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
North Korea, which has conducted three nuclear tests since 2006, has threatened to conduct a new nuclear test in response to a U.N. resolution condemning its human rights violations.