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S. Korea must stick to role of ‘balancer’

(Global Times)

08:36, July 03, 2012

South Korea has decided to postpone the signing of the General Security of Military Information Agreement with Japan amid strong public opposition to the pact.

The military deal, if signed, could turn the US-Japan and US-South Korea alliances into a triangular one.

The pact nominally targets North Korea, but it actually includes strategic expansion targeting China. Signing the pact would hurt South Korea's relations with China, and this is a geopolitical role South Korea may not be willing to play.

During the Roh Moo-hyun administration, South Korea positioned itself as a balancing force in Northeast Asia. But since Lee Myung-bak stepped into office, politically South Korea has tilted more toward the US and Japan.

The economic scenario is the opposite. Last year, South Korea's trade volume with China surpassed its combined trade volume with the US and Japan.

Strategically, if South Korea leans more toward the US and Japan, it may face an increasingly narrow path ahead.

Such a shortsighted strategy accelerates geopolitical division in Northeast Asia, and makes South Korea one of the uncertain elements in the regional geometry.

South Korea obviously doesn't want a war on the Peninsula. However, if the military alliance with the US cannot ensure Seoul is exempt from war, pulling Japan into the alliance may not help either.

Moreover, if the strategy is designed to work against China, this severely goes against its overall national interest.

South Korea benefits from Chinese prosperity, and a rational South Korea should continue to play the role of a balancer in Northeast Asia.

A military alliance between South Korea and Japan poses a potential threat to China. As a result, China should firmly oppose the move and try to persuade South Korea not to further its military alliance with Japan and the US.

Public opinion in South Korea managed to stop the signing of the military pact, but it is highly likely that the deal will finally be approved.

China has many means to influence South Korea. When domestic forces fail to stop Seoul's unfriendly moves against China, China should implement means to exert pressure on the South Korean government.

China and South Korea are close neighbors, and China is also deeply involved in the Peninsula's affairs. This determines that the relationship between Beijing and Seoul has to be friendly. If their strategic partnership is ruined, this will bring a lose-lose situation.


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