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U.S.-South Korea Coordination Toward China: Maritime Security

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The Taiwan Strait stands as a critical nexus in East Asia, drawing attention from South Korean observers who identify it as a potential flashpoint in US - China conflicts.

The geopolitical chokepoint, crucial for global trade, raises concerns of cross-strait military confrontations, given China's assertiveness and Taiwan's strategic significance in the global supply chain. South Korea, heavily reliant on shipping routes passing through the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea, maintains a cautious diplomatic stance, balancing relationships between the U.S. and China.

China's designation of Taiwan as a "core interest" in 2010, coupled with its maritime ambitions and military advancements, adds complexity to the region's dynamics. The South China Sea's rapid militarization intertwines with maritime security concerns, compelling South Korea to recalibrate its defense strategy against China's growing influence. President Yoon Suk Yeol aligns with the Camp David joint declaration, condemning China's "dangerous and aggressive behavior" in the South China Sea and expressing solidarity on Taiwan.

Metis Insights: Taiwan Strait

The Council on Foreign Relations' workshop emphasized the urgency of integrating the Taiwan issue into South Korea's security considerations. However, Seoul's cautious stance reflects concerns about North Korea's nuclear capabilities and potential risks to its security. China's economic leverage over South Korea further complicates its role in any Taiwan contingency. Bilateral ties with the U.S., public sentiment, and diplomatic efforts are crucial factors influencing South Korea's stance on Taiwan.


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The U.S.-South Korea alliance faces challenges, with economic reliance on China contrasting with security reliance on the U.S. Policymakers must navigate this dichotomy, addressing maritime security concerns in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait. Trilateral cooperation with Japan and engagement with ASEAN countries are recommended to bolster regional deterrence and promote a rules-based maritime order. The alliance's commitment to international law and crisis-management mechanisms is crucial, emphasizing consistent U.S. policy on China and clarity for the South Korean domestic audience. Effective coordination between the U.S. and South Korea is paramount in facing evolving security dynamics and upholding peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

Source: Council on Foreign Relations