NATO Opportunities in the Indo-Pacific — Global Issues

  • Opinion by Taehun Lim (gwangiu, korea)
  • Associated Press Service

2022 is a pivotal year for the West and the NATO military alliance. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s growing military threats to Taiwan have forced NATO to recalibrate its risk analysis.

Therefore, the NATO summit in Madrid in June is remarkable when the two far eastern countries, South Korea and Japan, are invited. Although Japan already has status as a Western participant in the G7 framework, the invitation to South Korea to attend the summit is particularly surprising.

Although Seoul has been a global partner of NATO since 2006, cooperation so far has been mostly diplomatic. South Korea has been invited several times to previous NATO foreign ministers’ meetings, but this has not resulted in any geopolitical commitments on their part to NATO or Europe.

But circumstances have changed. The invitation to the summit was promoted by NATO’s most important member to date – the United States, an ally of South Korea. Does this mean that Japan and South Korea will now have new meanings for Europe and the Far East in terms of security policy?

Washington immediately praised the Indo-Pacific strategy.

On December 28, the Korean government under new president Yoon Suk-yeol publishes the strategy for the Indo-Pacific region for the first time. It states that the focus of the country should be on promoting freedom, peace and prosperity through the creation of a rules-based order and cooperation on the rule of law and human rights.

The 43-page document includes only one paragraph about China, Seoul’s largest trading partner and rival of its most important ally, the United States. When he took office in May, Yoon proclaimed a hard line towards China and has since stepped up security cooperation with the US.

The Indo-Pacific Strategy indirectly addresses concerns about China’s military action against Taiwan and calls for the resumption of summit meetings between South Korea, Japan and China, one last time. take place in 2019.

It states that cooperation with Japan is essential to promote cooperation and solidarity among like-minded countries in the Indo-Pacific region – a clear sign that Yoon wants to improve improve relations between these neighboring countries.

Seoul also wants to expand cooperation with the Quad – the Quadrangular Security Dialogue between Australia, India, Japan and the US – seen as a counterweight to China’s ambitions in the region. Washington immediately praised the Indo-Pacific strategy.

The advantage of closer cooperation for NATO

Closer relations between South Korea and Japan and a security partnership with the two East Asian nations will give NATO a strategic advantage. With South Korea, it can immediately benefit from the strength of its armed forces, especially in the context of China’s military buildup in the Indo-Pacific.

South Korea’s military is well-equipped and ready to fight North Korea’s continued military provocations. Furthermore, South Korea holds large-scale joint military exercises with the US every year. Second, South Korea can contribute to NATO through arms cooperation and can supply high-quality weapons.

For example, the competitiveness of the country’s arms industry is demonstrated by Poland’s purchase of tanks and artillery from South Korea in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Third, as a leader in digital technology, South Korea can strengthen NATO’s cybersecurity against Russia and China (and North Korea).

Fourth, as an important global chip manufacturer, South Korea – along with Japan and Taiwan – is seen by the US as part of a microchip alliance tasked with completely isolating China from the supply chain. circuit supply. In contrast, Korea acts as a reliable partner in the supply chain of microchips for NATO countries.

The current Japanese government under Fumio Kishida wants to increase the country’s military spending to 2% of GDP by 2027 and buy 500 Tomahawk cruise missiles. Such enhancement of Japan’s military capabilities would provide NATO with more strategic options in the face of China’s military buildup in the Indo-Pacific.

Advantage for Korea and Japan

From a Far Eastern perspective, a strategic partnership with NATO will help manage China’s military threat.

As a first step, joint military exercises involving NATO and East Asian countries could be held in the Indo-Pacific (where the US, France, Britain and Germany already have military presences). or in Europe, such as to enable and protect the free and unfettered flow of commerce in the South China Sea.

As a second step, the Far Eastern countries and NATO could perhaps establish an intelligence alliance equivalent to the ‘Five Eyes’ of the Anglo-Saxon powers. This will allow the two sides of the alliance to exchange military intelligence and facilitate the formulation of joint strategies toward China and Russia.

As a third step, NATO and the Far Eastern countries could form an informal military alliance similar to the Quad, which would enhance mutual security for both sides.

Cooperation between South Korea and NATO not only sends a clear message of deterrence, but also demonstrates a commitment to protect worldwide the values ​​of freedom that both sides share.

For the strategic partnership between NATO and the Far East to develop successfully, relations between Korea and Japan must be significantly improved. Smoldering conflict over how to deal with Japan’s colonial history hinders close cooperation.

enforce prostitution of Korean women during the colonial periodvisits by Japanese politicians to the Yasukuni Shrine, where Japanese war criminals are buried, and the border dispute over Liancourt Reef (Dokdo in Korean, Takeshima in Japanese) are some of the issues. unresolved historical controversy.

This is compounded by Japan’s trade sanctions against South Korea in 2019, which are intended to hinder further development of the Korean industry. Fortunately, the current South Korean government under Yoon Suk-yeol is very interested in significantly improving relations with the neighboring country in order to promote bilateral security cooperation with respect to China and North Korea.

The Japanese government will now have to respond to signals from Seoul, if necessary, while also involving the United States as mediator.

NATO’s decision in August to accept South Korea’s request to designate an embassy to represent the country in transactions with the military alliance bodes well for the development of a close strategic partnership. . Against the backdrop of rising military tensions in the Indo-Pacific and China’s military threats against Taiwan, the cooperation between South Korea and NATO not only sends a clear message of deterrence (and thus war prevention) but also demonstrates a worldwide commitment to defense. world of liberal values ​​that both sides share.

Dr. Taehun Lim, worked at the Institute for Eurasian Studies and Humanities at Chonnam National University, Korea, studied international politics at the University of Strasbourg and received a PhD in the same field from the University of Cologne. From 2011 to 2013, Dr. Lim was an artillery lieutenant in the South Korean army.

The source: International politics and society (IPS)-Journals published by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung’s International Political Analysis Unit, Hiroshimastrasse 28, D-10785 Berlin

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© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOrigin: Inter Press Service


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