A trip to the US by President Yoon Suk Yeol is high up on the priority list for the Foreign Ministry, part of efforts it hopes would help South Korea gain a larger share of the international diplomatic spotlight, Foreign Minister Park Jin said Wednesday.
Seoul -- set to mark its 70 years of security ties with Washington in October, its biggest ally -- revealed a month ago its Indo-Pacific strategy, a commitment to help reshape the world order alongside the US, primarily, amid deglobalization prompted by the escalating US-China rivalry.
The latest foreign policy, the most comprehensive regional plan ever put together, according to Park, offers guidance on how South Korea will handle its biggest security threat, North Korea, and global headwinds like the supply chain squeeze and inflation.
South Korea, Park said, will reach out to the international community to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and call out the regime’s rights abuses -- something overlooked in the previous administration out of fear that it could “unnecessarily provoke” the North. Seoul’s rights ambassador on Pyongyang, a post recently revived under President Yoon, will play a bigger role, Park noted at the annual briefing held to update the president.
Settling longtime historical disputes with Japan will follow shortly, Park added, referring to the current talks taking place behind closed doors over how Japan should go about making amends to South Koreans forced into labor by Japanese firms during World War II.
Japan is one of the three countries in an anti-North Korea military coalition that includes South Korea and the US, meaning mustering real firepower needed to deter Pyongyang’s aggression requires better Seoul-Tokyo relations.
On the economic front, South Korea will use its leverage as the world’s largest memory chip exporter to take initiative in managing “global cooperation” over addressing supply chain constraints involving semiconductors and key minerals, Park said. Early warning systems overseen by Korea’s missions overseas are one of the “works in progress,” Park added, stressing supporting economic security or plans to deal with global economic disruptions are being drafted seamlessly.
Meanwhile, Park addressed China as well, the other neighbor with whom Korea has recently seen ties flare up over COVID-19 travel curbs. Beijing enforced what many see as a retaliatory visa ban on South Koreans following Seoul’s tighter curbs on Chinese travelers amid a surge in COVID infections there.
“Scientific grounds should be the sole concerns when placing rules,” Yoon said, echoing what Park had said. The top diplomat called the tighter controls “scientifically sound,” indicating Seoul would stand its ground on the pandemic protocols.