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Yoon’s aide vows ties with like-minded countries

June 9, 2023 - 18:03 By Choi Si-young
Kim Tae-hyo, President Yoon’s deputy national security adviser, speaks to reporters at the presidential office in Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Wednesday. (Yonhap)

Kim Tae-hyo, President Yoon’s deputy national security adviser, reaffirmed the country’s push to prioritize diplomacy with countries that value freedom -- the administration’s signature foreign policy that has essentially put the country in a US-led coalition against China and Russia.

At a forum Friday to mark Yoon’s first anniversary of taking office in May 2022, Kim described freedom as a “core interest” that will determine whether the country will have a seat in a world increasingly fragmented by the escalating US-China rivalry.

“The way our government sees it, freedom makes us strong and protects our peace and prosperity. It is good and just,” Kim said, noting markets, fairness and the rule of law all come from embracing freedom in the first place.

Expanding ties with countries that share the same values of freedom and democracy has been the hallmark of Yoon’s foreign initiative, known as the Indo-Pacific Strategy. The plan, revealed in December, aims to ride out global challenges alongside the US, South Korea’s biggest ally. Seoul calls the strategy its first-ever comprehensive blueprint because it deals with almost all regions.

Patric Cronin, chair for Asia-Pacific security at the Hudson Institute in Washington, praised Korea’s efforts to bolster its international ties.

“Promulgating an Indo-Pacific strategy is the most obvious move from the peninsula to the broader region, where other large and middle powers are vying for influence,” he said at the forum,

Sue Mi Terry, director of the Asia Program at the Wilson Center, a Washington think-tank, said Yoon’s foreign policy “appears to be working” and that the US should intervene when China retaliates against Korean companies, a blowback that occurred in 2016 following Seoul’s installment of US missile defense systems.

Victor Cha, senior vice president for Asia and Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, echoed a similar sentiment, saying Washington should come up with a new “collective resilience” strategy to deter Beijing’s economic coercion.

“States like the US, Korea, Japan, Australia and the Group of Seven countries can band together and practice economic deterrence,” Cha said of concrete steps to follow, referring to the seven advanced economies of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US.