NATO invites Yoon Suk-yeol as it looks beyond Europe
President Yoon Suk-yeol is expected to attend the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Spain from June 29 to 30 as the North American and European-centered military alliance expands its focus by defining China's military rise as a new threat.
The invitation to U.S.-friendly leaders of the Indo-Pacific region, including Yoon, came after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it was time for NATO to adopt a new strategic concept at a joint news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the State Department in Washington on Wednesday.
“The alliance will adopt a new strategic concept, the first one since 2010, to make sure that we’re ready to meet the challenges of today and the challenges that we anticipate for tomorrow,” Blinken said, adding that such threats include “the People’s Republic of China’s rapid militarization, its no-limits friendship with Russia and efforts to weaken the rules-based international order that is the foundation for peace and security around the world.”
Blinken’s comments were echoed by Stoltenberg, who said NATO must “prepare for an age of increased strategic competition with authoritarian powers like Russia and China,” and that such steps include “working even more closely with our partners in the Asia-Pacific and other like-minded partners around the world.”
Under the administration of former President Moon Jae-in, South Korea attempted to maintain a balance in relations with China, its largest trading partner and a country it believes can influence nuclear-armed North Korea, and the United States, the country’s closest diplomatic and security ally.
Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February, however, Seoul has faced pressure from Washington to align more closely with it.
In a May 9 call with senior defense officials of its allies, U.S. Defense Secretary Austin Lloyd pressed for more weapons deliveries to Ukraine.
A Korean military source who asked not to be named said the administration of former President Moon Jae-in was very negative about the U.S. proposal, but the United States expects "a more forward-looking position" from the Yoon Suk-yeol administration.
Seoul has thus far resisted entreaties from the Washington to deliver lethal arms to Kyiv, sending only non-lethal military and humanitarian aid, such as bulletproof helmets, medical supplies and blankets.
Seoul could be drawn into deeper security entanglements as relations between Washington and Beijing deteriorate.
At the Beijing Winter Olympics this year, China declared an “unlimited friendship” with Russia.
At the centennial celebration of the Foreign Affairs magazine on June 1, Blinken expressed doubts that the United States could influence China to change the trajectory of its foreign policy.
“We can’t rely on Beijing to change its own trajectory,” Blinken said, saying Washington “is focused on three things: invest, align, compete” — referring to the need for the United States to invest in its own economy, cooperate closely with allies and compete with China.
Particularly relevant for Korea is Blinken’s emphasis of aligning “with our allies and partners,” whose collective weight the U.S. state secretary described as having “a much greater impact than any of our countries acting alone.
“It’s one thing when the United States takes it on alone, as 20, 25 percent of world GDP,” Blinken said of the country’s share of global economic output. “It’s another when we’re aligned with partners and allies, and maybe it’s 50 or 60 of world GDP.”
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]