North Korea’s military provocations including ICBM tests and spy satellite launches have intensified tensions on the Korean peninsula and beyond, and many questions have arisen about how South Korea and its allies will manage this increased threat. APARC and Korea Program Director Gi-Wook Shin recently joined Arirang News for a conversation in an episode of “Within the Frame” to examine the geopolitical uncertainty surrounding the Korean Peninsula in 2024.
The conversation covered a wide range of topics, including North Korea's intentions and recent provocations, Japan-U.S.-South Korea trilateral cooperation, Seoul-Beijing relations, tensions over Taiwan, and South Korean politics and soft power. Watch the full interview below (an excerpted version is also available here):
Shin said that North Korea’s intentions to become a nuclear state are clear and that it will continue to develop its nuclear arsenal and conventional military capabilities in 2024. He also argued that few in the international community are currently focused on halting North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
In terms of the Japan-U.S.-South Korea alliance, Shin mentioned that the Yoon government has done a very good job of strengthening trilateral cooperation, but the outcome of the 2024 U.S. election may affect the dynamics of the alliance, especially if Donald Trump becomes President again.
When asked about a potential “new Cold War” paradigm focusing on China, North Korea, and Russia's alignment, Shin warned that this characterization is strategically risky and stated that “we shouldn’t be creating a Cold War that doesn’t exist.” Shin pointed out that the current paradigm is much more interdependent and much more complicated. “I don’t think China wants to side with Russia or North Korea all the time because its relations with the global community are different from those of Russia or North Korea. We shouldn’t fall into this false logic of a Cold War in Northeast Asia.”
Another topic discussed was South Korean relations with China. In Shin’s view, South Korea must deal with its domestic anti-China sentiment to improve Seoul-Beijing relations and must also promote more people-to-people exchange. He noted the sharp drop in the number of South Korean students going to China to study and the number of Chinese students coming to South Korea.
Shin also discussed the tensions surrounding a potential military conflict in Taiwan, suggesting that a contingency might become one of the most difficult foreign policy challenges for the South Korean government, perhaps even more challenging than its relations with North Korea.