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발간자료 Is Seoul Turning Toward the Indo-Pacific?: A Korean Perspective on the Moon-Biden Summit 최원기 아세안인도연구센터 책임교수 작성일 2021-08-10 조회수 13387
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I. Sharing the Indo-Pacific Vision
Ⅱ. A New Momentum for ROK’s Indo-Pacific Engagement?
Ⅲ. Looking Ahead



I. Sharing the Indo-Pacific Vision

The Korea-US summit held on May 21, 2021 between President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea (ROK) and President Joe Biden of the United States (US) resulted in a number of significant agreements in various areas including a new approach toward North Korea that is open to diplomacy based on prior US commitments such as Singapore Joint Statement between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump in 2018. Another noticeable outcome of the Moon-Biden summit was the higher level of agreement on the bilateral cooperation for the US’s Indo-Pacific initiative, which was amply described in various ways in the two official summit documents, i.e., “US-ROK Leaders’ Joint Statement” and “Fact Sheet: US-Republic of Korea Partnership.” The Joint Statement states that the two countries "share a vision of a region governed by democratic norms, human rights and the rule of law at home and abroad." In particular, the two leaders agreed to “redouble their commitment to democratic values and the promotion of human rights at home and abroad.” They also pledged to maintain “freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.” ROK even mentioned “the importance of preserving peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait” for the first time in its diplomatic documents with the US. Although one cannot find a direct reference to China, the documents contain core elements of Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific agenda, and include a number of substantive parts that critically point to China. 

What is particularly noteworthy in the documents is that the two countries agreed to expand geographical scope, role, and agenda of the ROK-US alliance to regional and global levels. The two leaders said that “the significance of U.S.-ROK relationship extends far beyond the Korean Peninsula,” and that “the United States and the Republic of Korea pledge to strengthen our alliance and to broaden its focus to address issues of critical importance to the Indo-Pacific and the world.” The two leaders also agreed to work together “to align the ROK’s New Southern Policy and the United States’ vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific” and cooperate to “create a safe, prosperous, and dynamic region.” 

Actually, the concept of ‘alignment and cooperation’ between ROK’s New Southern Policy and the US Indo-Pacific initiative is not a new one, but has already been mentioned a number of times in official diplomatic documents of the US and ROK under the Trump administration. For example, at the post-summit joint press conference on June 30, 2019, held during President Trump's visit to Korea, President Moon said in his opening remarks that "we have agreed to put forth harmonious cooperation between Korea's New Southern Policy and the United States' Indo-Pacific Strategy.” What is new at this time, however, is that the US and ROK redefined and expanded the nature and scope of ‘alignment and cooperation’ between their respective initiatives by committing "to oppose all activities that undermine, destabilize or threaten the rule-based international order” in order to “to [maintain] an inclusive, free, and open Indo-Pacific.” This is quite a significant move on the part of the Moon administration in that Seoul pledged and acknowledged its commitments to engage with the US Indo-Pacific initiative.


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