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[Editorial] Bigger role in world

Repeated calls that G7 should expand to include Korea a sign of greater expectations

By Korea Herald

Published : April 8, 2024 - 05:31

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To tackle potential security threats amid deepening defense cooperation among North Korea, China and Russia, the US and its allies committed to maintaining a rules-based international order face a growing need to band together.

Hence, there have been repeated calls from Washington that the Group of Seven should be expanded to include Australia and South Korea.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies proposed in its recent report that the US and Japan should consider G7 expansion to include Australia and South Korea, “the world’s next two largest advanced democracies and partners that are increasingly critical to global political and economic responses.”

“This is not charity. Given the challenges facing today’s international environment, it is time to bring additional voices with meaningful capacity and aligned views to the table,” authors including Richard L. Armitage and Joseph S. Nye wrote in their report, “US-Japan Alliance in 2024.” The CSIS report was published last week, ahead of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s state visit to the US this week.

Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the G7 has taken center stage as the key global platform for maintaining the rules-based international order, offering support to Ukraine and addressing challenges such as countering economic coercion from China, the report noted, saying that the G7 membership needs expansion to include other like-minded partners with the values and resources to buttress the rules-based international order.

As structures of trilateral dialogue among South Korea, US and Japan at the strategic level are already in place after the Camp David meetings in August 2023, the report said the US and South Korea “should now move to establish formal connections at the operational level, including through exchanges of liaison officers at respective commands, the inclusion of observers at bilateral exercises, and the establishment of a trilateral contingency planning cell.”

The report went on to say that South Korea and Japan should move to normalize bilateral defense relations through a first-ever joint security declaration, adding that such a declaration could be modeled on the 2007 security cooperation declaration between Japan and Australia, which set out broad areas of common interest and cooperation in a nonbinding political statement.

In November last year, Ron Klain, US President Joe Biden’s former chief of staff, proposed expanding the G7 to G9 to add Australia and South Korea. Klain argued that adding the two nations to the group would help balance against the rising BRICS alliance, an effort bringing together Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

In 2020, former US President Donald Trump proposed making it the G10, with South Korea, Australia and India, even inviting Russia to one of the group’s meetings. India has since aligned more closely with Russia and China via BRICS.

As South Korea is now the world’s 13th-largest economy and eighth-largest arms exporter with the ninth-largest defense budget, the international community is increasingly expecting it to play a bigger role in global affairs as the world endures two ongoing wars in Ukraine and Gaza as well as potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait.

South Korean politicians across the spectrum should realize that the fate of a nation is closely intertwined with how well its leaders read what is going on around the world -- a lesson that Korea has repeatedly learned throughout its history.

Also, they will have to accept South Korea's growing international responsibilities as a new middle power. South Korea couldn’t have achieved what it has since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War had it not been for the aid of other countries who fought on its side. Its foreign policy can no longer be limited to playing neutral and being careful not to offend China or Russia at all times, for instance.

Whichever party comes out on top in this week's general election, Korea's politicians should pay more heed to what's happening outside the country as well, and how the country can keep its people safe and help to uphold the rules-based international order amid growing Russian, Chinese and North Korean aggression.