Earlier this week, South Korea abruptly announced it was negotiating a military agreement with China, a fierce enemy during the 1950-1953 Korean War and North Korea’s long-time ally. What surprised the media was the fact this move came just days after Seoul suspended the signing of a similar military pact with Tokyo.
Is Seoul just trying to get closer to its largest trade partner China? Or by shifting its axis of cooperation from Tokyo to Beijing, is it aiming to play a “balancer’s role” between Japan and China, a position that former South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun used to advocate?
“South Korea’s left-wing opposition parties and groups have been attacking the Lee Myung-bak administration on forging military pacts with the former colonial ruler Japan so far,” Hideshi Takesada, a professor at Yonsei University of South Korea, told Asia Times Online. “So by bringing up the subject of a military pact with China, it wants to say ‘Hey, we are not negotiating only with Japan, but also with many nations such as China.’ It tries to dodge a public backlash that military pacts with Japan have caused.”
I’m going to reveal my bias here: If Roh, Moo-Hyun was all for it, I think it’s a good idea!
Takesada, a former executive director of the National Institute for Defense Studies in Tokyo, the Japanese Ministry of Defense’s think-tank, sees almost no chance that Seoul could make a military deal with China because this would provoke a fierce backlash from Pyongyang.
I don’t know about that. If this can translate to further ties between South Korea and China, then HOPEFULLY this can in turn mean tighter relations with the North by proxy through China, and then eventually, directly.
Keepin’ it real, though…
Military experts say that South Korea’s military pacts with China, even if realized, would rank a notch lower than its military accords with Japan, as they may limit the scope of cooperation between Seoul and Beijing.
Also, the plot thickens:
According to South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper, a US Air Force Boeing 737 flew from Guam to Pyongyang with the officials on April 7, six days before North Korea’s April 13 long-range rocket launch in an apparent bid to halt the test.
The newspaper said the aircraft passed through South Korean airspace and might have been carrying Sydney Seiler, a National Security Council adviser to President Barack Obama, and Joseph DeTrani, director of the National Counter-Proliferation Center.
The US government did not notify South Korea’s military air traffic controllers of the flight. As a result, the controllers initially had trouble identifying the aircraft and eventually found it was heading to the North, according to a report last week by Reset KBS, an online broadcasting channel.
[Cue Shocking Music]