Time to reinforce allianceThe first summit between President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Joe Biden has ended. The significance of the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders lies in their affirmation of the decades-old alliance amid the ever-worsening Sino-U.S. rivalry. The seven-page joint statement issued after the summit confirmed the need for both sides to escalate the military and security alliance to economy and technology levels based on shared values. The inclusion of the Taiwanese issues in the statement and their shared views on the Indo-Pacific Strategy and the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) appear to be a hard decision the Moon administration reached after deliberations. We hope the joint statement helps wipe out deepening U.S. concerns about its ally’s pro-China stance and dilly-dallying on America’s hard-line China policy.
Fortunately, Moon has decided to consolidate the alliance for the remainder of his term. He also reaped tangible results from the summit, including a scrapping of the overly stringent South Korea-U.S. missile pact.
We want to interpret Moon’s profession of his will to reinforce the alliance not as an impromptu action but as a result of heated analysis, debate and deliberation with his aides amid the U.S.-China contest. We also want to believe that the Moon administration closely studied the Biden administration’s diplomatic approach to global issues based on international alliances and shared values of free democracy.
On the Covid-19 vaccine front, however, Moon failed to bring in enough Covid-19 vaccines to ease deepening public anxiety in Korea. He also could not find a real breakthrough in the deadlocked inter-Korean relations except for an agreement to devise diplomatic solutions. That reflects disagreements between the two leaders over the issue.
In a press conference, Biden affirmed his lack of “illusion about denuclearizing North Korea,” and reaffirmed implementation of sanctions. That testifies to a big gap with Moon, who wants a more flexible approach toward Pyongyang, including a lifting of sanctions. The Moon administration must have one voice on such critical issues through close coordination with the Biden administration. That’s the only way to bring North Korea to the table.
Beijing will certainly resist the results of the Moon-Biden summit because of its disappointment about Seoul’s unexpected about-turn. But the Moon administration must be able to explain its position clearly. If South Korea straddles the fence, it will not be trusted by either side.
Moon must reinforce the alliance.