South Korea and the U.S. Strategy of Free and Open Indo-Pacific

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2021-65-8-31-40
O. Davydov (,
Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow, 117997, Russian Federation

Received 15.01.2021.

Abstract. The advancement and promoting by the United States of its concept of Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) has shaped many of political discussions in Asian countries in recent years. The Republic of Korea is no exception. From this perspective, the article reviews the basic aspects of the evolution of South Korea’s foreign policy course as well as new priorities in that area which have been forged with the advent of President Moon Jae-in administration. The paper shows that the complex fluctuations of the South Korea’s external policy have been defined by the need to maintain the focus on the United States, on one side, and desire to nurture strategic partnership with China, on the other side. However, finding the right balance in that political equation has been significantly complicated due to the growing confrontation between the two global powers. Special attention is given to the role and place of South Korea in the U. S. Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy. The article examines the main directions, some of the outcomes and the prospects of cooperation between Washington and Seoul aimed at harmonizing their regional strategies in view of the factors facilitating those interactions as well as those hampering them. President Trump highlighted that the United States – the Republic of Korea alliance remains a linchpin for security, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific. However, the dialogue between the two partners has not revealed the willingness of South Korea to collaborate with the United States on that theme beyond a narrow framework of purely economic coordination. Particularly, South Korea has consistently rejected the attempts of its ally to involve the country into the activities of Quad for fear of a possible adverse effect for the Korea–China relationships. All of those questions are examined in the article in linkage with a number of bilateral problems prevailing in the ROK–USA alliance which have complicated the collaboration between the two countries on regional issues in recent times.

Keywords: Indo-Pacific region, Northeast Asia, Moon Jae-in, New Southern Policy, Quad, the United States, China, the Republic of Korea, the USA–ROK alliance


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For citation:
Davydov O. South Korea and the U.S. Strategy of Free and Open Indo-Pacific. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2021, vol. 65, no. 8, pp. 31-40.

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