Seoul, Korea -After US President Joe Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in reached an agreement last month, South Korea is now free to develop missiles of any payload and range of its choice.
But this move was announced after the two leaders’ White House summit on May 21, and brought new security risks surrounding the development of South Korean missiles. Some analysts worry about the potential impact of this on the wider region.
Daniel Bong, a researcher at the Yonsei Korean Research Institute in South Korea, told Al Jazeera that the South Korean military already has cutting-edge missile technology, although the range was previously limited to 800 kilometers (497 miles). The question is whether the South Korean government wants to join the exclusive club of countries with long-range missiles.
“It is one thing to be unfettered in missile development, but to go all the way at the risk of going in the wrong direction with China is another thing,” Feng said.
South Korea used to go in the wrong direction with China on the missile issue Agree to deploy Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD), The US missile defense system in 2017.
In response, Beijing imposed severe sanctions.
South Korean analysts affiliated with the government and officials from the Moon Jae-in administration stated that China understands South Korea’s views on the release of missile guidelines, and Seoul characterizes it as “regaining missile sovereignty.”
But the US missile program may still cause trouble for South Korea.
August 2019, United States drop out From the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia. Later, former US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper stated that the United States would seek to deploy medium-range ballistic missiles in the Asia-Pacific region, that is, medium-range ballistic missiles.
Sung Ki-young, a senior researcher at the National Security Strategy Institute, told Al Jazeera: “South Korea may be a place, and it will be a disaster when it comes to managing our relations with neighboring countries, and of course China.”
The key will be how far South Korea chooses to launch the missile.
“By launching missiles that have a longer range and can reach major cities in China, South Korea will have less resistance to deploying American missiles that can target China,” said Bong Joon-ho of Yonsei. “I’m talking about nuclear missiles.”
Some people worry that the development of freely controlled missiles will push China and North Korea closer.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with the North Korean ambassador to Beijing after the Biden-Moon summit.
“They showed their family bonds…As the US-South Korea alliance strengthens, North Korea-China relations will also strengthen,” Cheong Wook-sik, director of the Seoul Peace Network, told Al Jazeera.
The missile guidance agreement also exposes the United States to false accusations, and the United States continues to support sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council on North Korea.
“The United States has imposed a lot of restrictions, condemnation and sanctions on North Korea’s missile development, so South Korea’s missile development shows a double standard,” Zhang said.
Zhang believes that it is precisely this so-called double standard, coupled with the resumption of large-scale US-South Korea joint military exercises, that the security atmosphere may deteriorate.
“If South Korea-US joint exercises are held this summer, North Korea may resume mid- and long-range missile tests in response,” Zhang said.
‘Stop playing with fire’
The relaxation of missile guidelines is one of several deals reached by the Biden and Moon Jae-in administrations in May.
The United States also provided vaccines to 550,000 South Korean troops, ostensibly to protect the 28,500 US military members who worked with them, while Biden supported President Moon Jae-in’s initiative to establish peace with North Korea, even though Moon Jae-in had only nine remaining. Months in the office.
In return, Moon Jae-in is also closer to the United States in relation to China: the joint statement “emphasizes (d) the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
But some people believe that seemingly equal trade-offs actually provide the United States with more geopolitical advantages.
“The Moon Jae-in government was oversold by the Biden government, and it turned out that they are good at negotiating because the Moon Jae-in government looks so desperate,” Yonsei’s Bong said.
President Moon is the third progressive South Korean leader seeking peace and reunification of the Korean Peninsula after Nobel Peace Prize winners Kim Dae-jung and President Roh Moo-hyun. President Moon is the chief of staff.
Recently, South Korea has tried to strike a balance between Beijing and Washington.
Economically, Beijing occupies a dominant position. In 2003, it surpassed the United States to become South Korea’s largest trading partner, and now accounts for more than a quarter of South Korea’s exports, exceeding US$125 billion annually.
At the same time, the United States relies on its military bases and the so-called “nuclear umbrella” to protect South Korea’s security, while China has become more and more confident and frequently invades the exclusive economic zones of South Korea, Taiwan, and neighboring countries. China Sea.
Beijing quickly responded to the Taiwan Strait issue mentioned in the Biden-Moon Jae-in joint statement. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian later stated at a briefing that “the countries concerned…should stop playing with fire.”
‘One less excuse’
On the issue of missile guidelines, Beijing has so far been somewhat silent, and North Korea has only given a relatively mild response: an article in the official media called the move “a clear reminder of the United States to North Korea and its hostile policy. Shameful two-faced. “
But analysts pointed out that the impact of other elements of the Biden-Moon Jae-in summit agreement and the possible resumption of joint military exercises that North Korea sees as a preview of the invasion.
South Korean peace activists accused the military exercises of exacerbating tensions, and the Moon Jae-in government tried to suspend joint exercises — or at least ease them — to generate goodwill with Pyongyang.
However, at the confirmation hearing of the inauguration of the commander of the U.S. Army in South Korea, General Paul Le Camella stated that the U.S.-South Korea joint military exercise is “very important to prepare for work” and that with the provision of vaccines to the South Korean and U.S. troops, “The Jae-in government no longer has any excuses to continue to suspend the annual joint military exercises with the US military in South Korea,” said Yonsei’s Bong.
Despite the challenges, some people in the Moon Jae-in administration are optimistic that the Biden summit will lead to progress in North Korea’s peace building, despite the relatively lame status of the South Korean president.
At the press conference at the end of Moon Jae-in’s visit to the White House, Biden mentioned that the official name of North Korea is North Korea. More importantly, Biden also introduced the North Korean special envoy and senior American diplomat. And negotiators, Jin Cheng.
Moon Jae-in himself stated that this appointment indicated that the United States was willing to engage with North Korea, and later told lawmakers that “appointing the US special envoy on North Korea is equivalent to publicly requesting that North Korea resume dialogue.”
Sung Kim now plans to go to Seoul for the first time.
During the five-day visit that began on Saturday, Kim Jong-un is expected to meet with his Korean counterparts and hold trilateral talks with Japanese representatives. This may be embarrassing because Tokyo refused to meet with South Korean officials at the recent Group of Seven (G7) summit in Cornwall, and the three countries have very different views on how to deal with North Korea.
The President of South Korea has long advocated unconditional contact, while the United States and Japan have advocated more Hawk strategy Rely on continued sanctions.
As competition between the United States and China intensifies, South Korea’s attempts to implement its own projects on North Korea may become more dangerous.