Likeminded Countries Should Pursue Unified Strategies to Deal with North Korea

Former National Security Office Director Kim Sung-han delivers the keynote speech at the Seoul Diplomacy Forum 2023. Image via the Institute of Foreign and National Security.

SEOUL – Former South Korean National Security Office Director Kim Sung-han emphasized the need for South Korea and the U.S. to exert pressure on North Korea by forming unified strategies with like-minded countries and avoiding dependence on China.

On November 17, 2023, he gave a keynote speech at the “Seoul Diplomacy Forum 2023,” held under the theme of “The 70th Anniversary of the ROK-U.S. Alliance: Vision and Challenges.” 

Kim stressed the importance of exploring ways for South Korea and the U.S. to persuade China to “delink the North Korean nuclear issue from the U.S.-China strategic competition.”

Regarding the U.S.-China summit held in San Francisco in November 2023, Kim noted that the restoration of communication channels, including military channels, is a positive sign, but he didn’t expect to see a dramatic turnaround in U.S.-China relations in the short term.

Kim went on to remark that strategic competition between the U.S. and China could continue until 2050, citing analyses suggesting that determining winners and losers in key areas of the Fourth Industrial Revolution would require at least one generation.

Considering the diminished possibility of U.S.-China cooperation related to the Korean Peninsula, Kim suggested that the optimal environment for reunification would be for the U.S. and China to maintain a competitive and cooperative relationship while the U.S. maintains a dominant position.

Reflecting on the 70th anniversary of the ROK-U.S. alliance, Kim quoted Confucius: “At the age of 70, I followed my heart’s desires without overstepping the bounds of propriety.” In Kim’s view, the alliance has reached a stage where both countries can reveal their intentions and pursue their objectives without issues.

During the first session of the forum on “Alliance and Cooperation Networks in the Indo-Pacific Region,” a roundtable of ambassadors discussed various issues. U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Philip Goldberg praised South Korea, saying it has evolved from being a “shrimp caught between whales” to becoming a “big fish.” 

Goldberg highlighted the recent strengthening of cooperation among South Korea, the U.S., and Japan, which has improved the detection and tracking of North Korean missiles and has enhanced the ability to respond to any crisis in the region through trilateral military exercises.

The defense ministers of the three countries also agreed to expand trilateral military exercises in 2024 in various areas, underscoring the increasing cooperation among the three nations to pressure North Korea.

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