MADRID -- A high-ranking official from the presidential office said that South Korea would have faced “much more criticism and doubts” if it had not attended the NATO summit, as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The remarks came amid escalating tensions between Western allies and Russia alongside China over the NATO summit in Madrid held on Wednesday and Thursday. There, NATO members will approve a new “strategic concept” that deals with the challenges posed by China for the first time along with Russia’s threats.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters at pre-summit press conference on Monday that NATO’s new strategic concept will “address China for the first time” and “the challenges that Beijing poses to our security, interests and values.
Amid the full-fledged calls by NATO members to check China, President Yoon Suk-yeol was scheduled to meet with the Secretary-General Stoltenberg on Tuesday.
When asked whether Yoon and Stoltenberg would discuss security issues related to China, Korea’s biggest trade partner, the official said: “Korea does not have to answer directly, but since the same dilemma and contradiction exist in the Indo-Pacific region and Europe, there is strategic communication between major European countries and about how Korea will cooperate on these issues in the future.” The official asked to be unnamed due to the sensitivity of the issue.
“The consensus among the 30 NATO allies is that China has consistently supported Russia’s position on the Ukraine war, and China and Russia have the same authoritarian leadership, and the European Union and NATO have come together to put their heads together,” he said.
The official said each country has sovereignty and autonomy to run its own domestic political system.
“However, there are forces that create and support the war and the global economy, including South Korea, is struggling together in the aftermath of this war,” he said. “There will be much more criticism and doubts if Korea does not participate in the forum.”
China also voiced criticism of the NATO summit.
In response to Yoon’s attendance at the NATO summit, China’s state media Global Times reported that “the Yoon administration gradually loses its diplomatic independence by relying on the US.” This is the first time that Chinese officials or state media have directly mentioned South Korea and criticized its attendance at the NATO summit.Why is Korea at the NATO summit?
The official said there are three aims for Yoon’s participation in the NATO summit.
The first is about security. “According to President Yoon’s usual philosophy that freedom is protected only by power, he is seeking to join forces with countries that share values and intentions in the international community based on a firm security posture,” he said.
The second reason is related to the growing importance of non-traditional security cooperation.
“Cooperation agendas, traditionally limited to military security, are becoming increasingly inclusive, and security and the economy are merging,” he said.
Based on Korea’s advanced technologies, the nation expects to strengthen cooperation in non-traditional new security fields and partners.
“We will seek to strengthen high-tech cooperation with the NATO allies in chips, nuclear power, construction and green technology.”
Finally, the NATO summit is meaningful in expanding global partnerships.
“NATO’s headquarters invited major countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including Korea, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, because of the growing strategic importance of India and the Pacific region.”
This time, President Yoon Suk-yeol will discuss in detail what kind of customized strategic partnership Korea will design with the participating countries, he said.
Yoon will hold talks with Australia on Tuesday; the Netherlands, Poland and Denmark on Wednesday; and the Czech Republic on Thursday. He will also meet briefly with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and the leaders of Canada and Romania, respectively.Meeting with Australian leader
On Tuesday, Yoon is set to greet Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in the first of a long string of summit meetings.
The two leaders will discuss how to develop a comprehensive strategic partnership between Korea and Australia to mark the 61st anniversary of diplomatic ties. Australia is a very important cooperative partner in South Korea’s liberal democracy and for the security of the Korean Peninsula, the official said.
Australia and South Korea are now working on their own Indo-Pacific policies to contribute to peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.
According to the official, top agenda items for the meeting will be building “future-oriented partnerships with major countries in the region, including China,” and making a firm and united response to the North’s provocations.
Australia, South Korea, Japan and New Zealand are four Asia-Pacific countries that have been invited to the NATO summit as partners.
As Australia’s participation in the NATO summit is seen as part of moves to keep China in check, Indo-Pacific strategies are likely to be discussed at the Korea-Australia summit. The nation is also a member of the Quad, a four-nation military consultative body formed by the US along with Japan and India to counter China’s maritime expansion policy.
Resource diplomacy is also to be on the agenda for South Korea and Australia. Former South Korean President Moon Jae-in held a summit with former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison last December and signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in the supply chain of key minerals.Improving relations with NATO
“We will also commit to signing a new NATO partnership cooperation program in the second half of this year. The relationship between South Korea and NATO began in 2006,” he said.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, South Korea and NATO decided to sign a new NATO partnership program in the second half of this year by writing about what new strategic security cooperation South Korea and NATO will have, the official said.
Another achievement will be to agree to open Korea’s NATO mission in Brussels. The designation of the NATO delegation is expected to strengthen information sharing with South Korea.
Information is expected to be more accessible to various NATO military security consultations, and the possibility of bidding for various defense projects promoted by the NATO procurement agency will be open.
South Korea recently made a commitment to giving $100 million in humanitarian aid and goods to Ukraine.
“Madrid is the point where Korea‘s Indo-Pacific strategy and the global security and peace initiative meet the concept of NATO’s 2022 new strategy,” President Yoon Suk-yeol said in a meeting with his staff this morning.
This means that NATO member countries have invited Korea, a major country in the Indo-Pacific region, to make the nation, a key strategic partner in the future, and we are here in Madrid to discuss ways of cooperation, the official said.
By Shin Ji-hye (email@example.com