May 7, 2021

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Can BIDEN repair the US relationship with South Korea?

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Since the end of world war 2 the friendship and political and military alliance between the united states and south korea has been

along with japan the cornerstone of u.s diplomacy throughout asia

when the korean armistice agreement was signed in 1953 korea was part of a small axis

aligned with the united states and surrounded by huge communist powers the soviet union and the people’s republic of chinaan axis that south korea formed togetherwith japan and taiwanof course of these three countries only

south korea is on the mainland and what is even more important it is the closest country to the richest and most politically economically and militarily important area in the whole of china the beijing shanghai axis

for this reason it is not surprising that south korea has always been a geopolitical priority for the united states while for the south koreans the protection afforded by being under the

umbrella of the world’s largest military power has also been a lifeline a guarantee oftheir national security so in political and military matters

you could say that this has been a symbiotic relationship in economic matters however the path has been somewhat more vague until the

1980s south korea was highly dependent on the united states

in 1970 for example exports to and imports from the united states and japan accounted for more than 75 percent of all south korean trade this figure began to decline gradually from the 1980s onwards

thanks in part to the emergence of china the asian giant the land of the sleeping

dragon is today south korea’s largest trading partner by far

but wait a minute because economic ties are not the only thing that has dwindled in the relationship between south korea and the united states the country known as the land of the morning calm has for

years been making trade-offs between what is good for its national security which tilts it towards the united states andn what is good for its economy and its companies which leans more in the direction of

china south korea caught in the middle as china u.s wales face off south china morning post to put in another way we could say that south korea has been moving to the center of a

bustling room with the united states in one corner and china in the opposite corner while the two superpowers are shouting at each other that is more or less the challenge

facing south korean diplomacy in regards to the two giants of the modern world of course china’s growing influence is far from the only factor that explains

the deterioration of u.s south korean

relations

but what is it that has brought the long

long-lasting love affair between seoul

and washington to its lowest point in

living memory can the arrival of joe

biden in the white house put the old

relationship back on the right track

well let’s take a look

a tense alliance

since xi jinping took the reins of china

in 2013. one of his priority missions in

addition to extending china’s power in

the world has been precisely to weaken

the strategic alliances of the united

states

and since japan is very difficult to

deal with due to old historical and

political disputes with china south

korea has been the main target in their

sites

now let’s not kid ourselves here the

main stumbling block in u.s korea

relations has not been xi jinping but

the united states of america itself

in particular the 45th uf’s president

donald trump

i don’t know what you’re thinking trump

again is he going to be blamed for

everything well

everything obviously not everything but

what i can say in this particular story

his role was decisive

let me explain relations between south

korea and the united states have been

very close even today

some 28 500 u.s troops are still

deployed in the asian country a

deployment that also included nuclear

weapons until the early 1990s don’t

forget that south korea is a country

that along with japan is protected under

the so-called nuclear umbrella a

strategy that if necessary would allow

the united states to carry out a rapid

nuclear strike in the event of an attack

on south korean territory

and that’s not all the u.s fired missile

defense shield is also deployed in south

korea throughout its development

this shield has caused a huge diplomatic

crisis between china and south korea

including a chinese trade boycott

as we have already told you on one

occasion or another this caused

significant economic damage to the south

korean economy in addition the land of

the morning calm is also one of the main

strategic stop-over points for the us

navy

in the asia-pacific zone so of course

given all this it is likely that at this

point you think

but what are you saying josh what is the

problem with the alliance between south

koreans and americans

well as we mentioned before it is at

this point that we need to talk once

again about former president donald

trump

[Music]

with the arrival of donald trump in the

oval office many things changed among

them the way in which the united states

related to its allied countries during

his four years in office the issue of

alliances and their influence on the

global political balance

mattered virtually nothing to trump his

obsession was to focus almost

exclusively on two things

firstly to reduce the costs of permanent

military deployments abroad and secondly

to level the famous trade balance

and of course south korea was not spared

the fury which trump directed

many of the us’s most important allies

for example shortly after coming to

power trump unilaterally decided that

the united states korea free trade

agreement known as the chorus fda had to

be modified in his election campaign he

even went so far as to label a

job-killing trade deal

in fact a couple of months before

sitting down to agree on the new terms

trump launched section

201 which set tariffs on washing

machines and solar panels particularly

affecting south korea

china south korea protest u.s tariffs on

washing machines

solar panels voice of america in fact

this move was seen almost as a form of

extortion

to renegotiate the terms of the chorus

fta an agreement signed in 2007 by the

republican administration of george bush

and which had not come into force until

2012.

yes that’s right trump unleashed his

wrath against an agreement that had

allegedly contributed to the industrial

dismantling that the united states had

been suffering for decades

despite having been in place for only

four years

in any case let’s just say that the

white house didn’t accomplish much of

its campaign of harassment and

demolition either

it was more of a publicity campaign by

trump to sell dubious successes to his

voters

for example one of the key factors to

the renegotiation signed in march 2018

was to increase

from 25 000 to 50 000 maximum number of

us vehicles that could be exported to

south korea without having to be

reapproved by south korean regulators

the small detail is now at that time the

u.s had already gone six years without

surpassing those 25

000 vehicles free of reapproval in fact

ford and general motors had exported

fewer than 10 000

the previous year so you can imagine

that extending a maximum that was not

reached and was not predicted to be

reached in the near future

was basically pretty useless

but trump’s pressure on south korea did

not end there shortly thereafter in 2019

it also threatens to again

impose tariffs of up to 25 on south

korean cars

and pay attention because this could

indeed have been quite a blow as south

korean vehicle exports to the united

states totaled 13.6 billion dollars in

2018.

and of course the question that comes up

is how on earth is it possible that the

united states decided to be so hostile

to such a close and important ally

couldn’t all this pressure cause south

korea to further strengthen its ties

with china what is the point of putting

in place such a harsh policy and

threatening speech when you have nothing

to gain and a lot to lose

wasn’t limiting china’s influence

supposed to be the number one priority

in short all the incongruities of

america first and be careful because if

you think that trump’s obsession with

south korea was limited only to the

commercial field

very wrong

as we mentioned 28 500 u.s troops are

deployed in korea the cost of which is

shared between the two countries well

since 2018 this was also

another of trump’s battlefields you see

the previous cost agreement

expired on december 31st of that year so

trump saw this opportunity to make more

money and score points with his base

and we’re not exactly talking about

pocket change trump wanted south korea

to move to paying 5 billion each year

versus the roughly 850 million it had

been paying previously

in other words trump was putting a

nearly 600 increase on the table even

though he knew that this would be

unacceptable to seoul and

violated the 1966 u.s south korea status

of forces agreement article 5 of which

states that the united states bears the

cost of deployment

except for issues such as suppliers and

rights of passage to make his point the

former us president did not hesitate to

threaten south korea with the withdrawal

of all its troops something that would

have made the governments of china and

north korea very very happy

anyway the infamous trump antics how we

are going to miss them on visualpolitik

the fact is that although trump later

lowered his demand to 1.3 billion no

agreement was reached with seoul and so

the mata remained in limbo until biden

moved on the issue again

in february 2021 getting closer to an

agreement

9th of march 2021 in south korea biden

ends trump’s feud over military cost

sharing the u.s state department said

that the agreement would extend through

2025

and include a quote meaningful increase

in south korea’s share of the expenses

to support

u.s troop deployments in the country

stratfor the problem is that all these

ordeals

threats trade warfare and displays of

bad manners between the u.s government

and south korea

during trump’s presidency have greatly

eroded the trust of the blue house and

south koreans toward their historic ally

what’s more having the images of trump

rubbing shoulders with kim jong-un while

smiling

calling him a friend and a talented

person among many other compliments does

not help to maintain trust and

credibility although

to be fair president moon jae-in wasn’t

too far behind in that either

but let’s not get too sidetracked the

point is that trump’s four years are an

important factor

in why south korea has now begun to

consider that betting everything on the

united states could be a huge mistake

that

if possible more cards should be kept in

play

so what has happened is that as of today

seoul is trying to maintain a position

of equity distance from both the united

states and china even staying out of the

most sensitive issues for beijing such

as the assault on hong kong or the

dispute over the artificial islands in

the south china sea

now the question we must ask ourselves

at this point is can the united states

regain credibility in south korea and

restore the influence it has lost

well with the arrival of biden there is

a glimmer of hope in this whole story a

change that is nevertheless shrouded in

an entire halo of uncertainty wanna know

why well

let’s take a quick look

the uncertainty that taints a beautiful

friendship

dear friends biden’s arrival in the

white house has been marked by his

promise to restore the so-called pax

americana

especially with regard to the united

states most important allies

america is back diplomacy is back when

we strengthen our alliances

we amplify our power as well as our

ability to disrupt threats before they

reach our shores

america cannot afford to be absent any

longer on the world stage

joe biden president of the united states

the words sound good but in what ways

could boyden get relations with his

south korean ally back on track

well although it might seem

counterproductive the truth is that it

is gambling specifically on china

spider wants to create a kind of club of

allied democracies capable of

counteracting china’s power by acting

multilaterally that is

an all for one and one for all force to

restrain beijing a club in which

south korea one of asia’s leading

democracies could obviously have a lot

to say

of course this sounds as nice as it is

difficult to implement

why would a country like south korea

risk its economic relations with china

to go back to joining forces with

another country it no longer trusts so

much
well listen up because there is a window

of opportunity on the horizon moon

jae-in will leave the presidency in may

2022 because in south korea there is no

re-election and currently the

conservative opposition much closer to

the united states and with a more

hostile position towards china has a

good chance to win so what we have to do

in this case is to wait

first to see what steps biden will take

in the coming months with respect to

china and its allies in asia

and then to see what happens in the

south korean elections next year

what is clear is that joe biden’s

administration now has time to try to

rekindle the good feelings and remember

that south korea is key for the united

states if the american power aspires to

maintain its place

in the asia pacific region which also

happens to be the new economic and

political axis of the world

the question is will it be able to win

over its old ally again

will washington be able to get sold to

break with a pragmatic strategy that is

working very well for it to go back to

being best.

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