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2015年10月19日 (月)

米韓首脳会談 対中傾斜で同盟を揺るがすな

The Yomiuri Shimbun
South Korea should not shake alliance with U.S. by favoring China too much
米韓首脳会談 対中傾斜で同盟を揺るがすな

It is vital that the United States and South Korea maintain their solid alliance, for the deterrence of North Korea’s military provocations and the regional stability of Asia. South Korea should not weaken these ties by getting too close to China.

U.S. President Barack Obama held talks with his South Korean counterpart Park Geun-hye in Washington and they adopted a joint statement focusing on their cooperation to get Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and missile programs.

The statement warns that additional sanctions will be imposed on Pyongyang should the country push through with launching a ballistic missile or conducting a nuclear test in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Since this summer, North Korea has heightened military tensions between South and North Korea, while also hinting at the possibility of its conducting nuclear tests.

It is significant that Obama confirmed the need to strengthen the U.S.-South Korea alliance during a joint press conference, saying, “The commitment of the United States to the defense and security of the Republic of Korea will never waver.”

Yet it cannot be denied that the “close alliance” between the United States and South Korea has been in large part choreographed, because the heightened distrust within the United States regarding South Korea’s inclination toward China needed to be denied.

Park decided on South Korea’s participation in the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and attended the military parade China held to mark the anniversary of its “victory over Japan” in World War II.

‘Natural partner’

“I believe that we [South Korea and the United States] make natural partners,” Park said at the press conference regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations, in which member countries such as Japan and the United States recently reached a broad agreement. This statement indicated Seoul’s intention to join the TPP, and was probably aimed at mitigating U.S. concern.

Obama said at the press conference that if China fails to abide by international rules, “We expect the Republic of Korea to speak out on that,” driving home the point.

Obama’s remark was apparently made in consideration of China’s self-serving maritime advances in the East and South China seas. But Park made no reference to this.

It remains unclear whether South Korea will modify its diplomatic stance toward China.

The amount of bilateral trade between China and South Korea exceeds the sum of its trade with the United States and Japan. We can understand Seoul attaching importance to China in the economic field, but shifting its priorities from Washington to Beijing in the realm of security could destabilize the region.

During a speech made earlier in Washington, Park said she intends to hold her first full-fledged talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the occasion of the trilateral summit among Japan, China and South Korea in early November.

Since she took office, Park made it a condition that she would hold summit talks with Japan if progress was made on the issue of so-called comfort women.

Park appears to have agreed at last to Washington’s repeated urging to improve the bilateral relations between Japan and South Korea.

However, Park emphasized, “The summit can have substantial meaning if we see some progress on the issue of comfort women.”

Unless Park changes her diplomatic posture of giving too much weight to issues related to historical perception, it will be difficult for Japan and South Korea to effectively deal with the mountain of pending issues. It will be impossible to realize the close trilateral cooperation among Japan, the United States and South Korea that Washington hopes to see.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 18, 2015)


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