eIt was a visit designed to underscore the close ties between friendly countries, the United States and South Korea. However, the stay in Seoul by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin exposed differences between the US and South Korean governments over North Korea and China.
Correspondent for Business and Politics in Japan based in Tokyo.
In Seoul, Blinkan criticized “systematic and comprehensive” human rights abuses in North Korea, thus reaffirming a new approach to North Korean policy compared to Donald Trump’s previous government. Former civil rights activist Moon Jae-in has been extremely cautious about human rights in general in order not to impede the South Korean government’s efforts to develop relations with the North.
The reluctance goes so far that a majority of Moon’s Democrats in parliament condemned the rule of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and banned the sending of leaflets to the North by law in December. In a one-page interview with South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Yu-yong, he said Americans had been told that the promotion of human rights should be dealt with with practical improvements within North Korea.
Blinken tells China to influence North Korea
In the final announcement of the meeting of the four foreign and defense ministers, they reaffirmed the common priority of achieving nuclear disarmament in North Korea. In general, ministers expressed their willingness to address and resolve these issues.
There are also differences in attitudes towards China. Blingen spoke about Beijing’s aggressive, authoritarian behavior that challenges stability, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region. South Korea, which is highly dependent on China for foreign trade, certainly follows a policy toward its larger neighbors, analysts in Seoul describe as strategic ambiguity. In the final announcement of the meeting of the four, nothing was mentioned about China, and only in general terms of protest against all actions that would undermine and destabilize the international order based on the rules. Two days ago in Tokyo, US guests, along with the Japanese government, openly mentioned China by name.
The comparison makes it clear that it is not easy for the United States to stand with South Korea and Japan against China. South Korea’s Chung said there was no mention of South Korea’s participation in the US, Japan, Australia and India’s quartet. The Quad is a loose forum in which governments work together towards an international order based on free values in the Pacific region.
Blingen left after talks in South Korea to meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang. While in Seoul, he called on the Chinese government to use its overwhelming influence over North Korea to advance the country’s nuclear disarmament. There is clear self-interest in Beijing because North Korea is a source of instability, Blinken said. Joe Biden’s government is currently working on a new US policy on North Korea.
A few hours ago, the North Korean government rejected talks with the United States until Washington dropped its hostility toward the country. North Korea’s first deputy foreign minister, Cho Son-hui, confirmed earlier in the day that Blinken had previously said that the new US administration would try to contact Pyongyang through various channels from mid-February. Cho, also known as Conversation, offers the maneuver to buy time. Cho said North Korea had heard crazy theories about the “threat from North Korea” and rhetoric of complete nuclear disarmament from the new regime in Washington.
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