SEOUL, South Korea. March 10, 2022. PICTURED: President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during a press conference at the National Assembly Library. PC: James Lee. Fair Use, retrieved from Xinhua.
SEOUL, South Korea. April 26th, 2022. A top South Korean General attending a security conference in India said that his country’s President-elect, Yoon Suk-yeol, is considering joining AUKUS and the Quad, two U.S.-created security blocs aimed at antagonizing China in the Pacific.
The lame-duck president Moon Jae-in not only opted out of these partnerships, but also reduced in some cases, and cancelled in others, many of the joint U.S.-Korean military exercises as a way of relieving tensions on the Peninsula.
Yoon has signaled on several fronts that he’s ready for more militarized participation in the region, and the left-right political split in South Korea can essentially be divided by those who are either pro-anti China, pro-anti peace with the north, and pro-anti cooperation with Japan and the U.S.
To that end Yoon’s advisors, during a meeting with U.S. officials in early April, sought redeployment of submarines and nuclear weapons to South Korea.
“Deploying the strategic assets is an important element of reinforcing the extended deterrence, and the issue naturally came up during the discussions,” Park Jin, a four-term lawmaker who led the delegation, told reporters.
Topic of the U.S.’s commitment to NATO expansion into eastern Europe has come under scrutiny in the media and among more conservative policy makers in light of the invasion of Ukraine.
The Quad, consisting of the U.S., India, Japan, and Australia, is in effect an adolescent version of a NATO bloc in the Asia-Pacific that war hawks in the military believe could grow in members, becoming something of a “PTO”.
AUKUS on the other hand is essentially a military research agreement between Australia, the UK, and the U.S. which enables capacity sharing in the form of nuclear-powered submarines and hypersonic weapons, mostly in a one-way direction to Australia.
South Korea could receive similar benefits as part of a “SCAUKUS” agreement, which would be seen as a big get by rules-based international order types. Domestically, Yoon hasn’t signaled as much animosity towards China, an important trading partner with South Korea, as much as he has towards North Korea.
The Diplomat reported that a three-fourths majority of South Koreans in a 1,000 person survey desired peace with North Korea. The DPRK is still technically at war with both the South and the U.S. In 1953, hostilities were ended merely with an armistice, and not an internationally-recognized peace.
North Korea have recently unveiled what they claim to be a hypersonic glide missile, and conducted more tests than usual since Yoon’s election.