It has been 20 years since South Korea and China established diplomatic ties on August 24, 1992. Since then, South Korea and China have exceedingly expanded their relations in the political, economic, and military spheres. This was evident during the presidential summit on May 2008, where China and South Korea agreed to advance relations by going from a “comprehensive cooperative partnership” to a “strategic cooperative partnership.” Admittedly, South Korea’s foreign policy has shown continuity in its overall strategy towards China. There are, however, constraining factors that limit continuation of South Korea’s relations with China, mainly, China’s recent reluctance to rein in North Korea. Indirectly, this factor is affected by the Korean-US military alliance.
This section proceeds in three parts. First, this section discusses the points were South Korea and China have strengthen their ties. Second, the constraining factors in the South Korean-Chinese relations will be analyze. Finally, this section will analyze the extent to which these relations affect the United States in the region.
The Ties that Bind
Largely, South Korea and China have developed their relationship with an unprecedented speed through expanding bilateral economic cooperation. The development in these areas is the driving force promoting cooperation and development in other areas of the relationship between China and South Korea. As a result, China has become South Korea’s largest trading partner and number one export and investment destination. At the same time, the political and diplomatic relations have been moving forward in the same direction, enhancing both of their cooperation with multilateral organizations like the APEC, ASEAN+3, and ASEM. More notably the China-Japan-South Korea trilateral summits.
Strengthening Factors of Relations
Generally, South Korea and China share similar goals and common interests in East Asia and the Korean Peninsula. Both states share an arguably similar stance on North Korea and share concerns about the future of Japan. First, North Korea remains the primary foreign policy concern for South Korea, and on this matter, Chinese and South Korean strategies have been more complementary than competitive. Admittedly, South Korea and China worry about the economic and political consequences that a collapsed North Korea could bring. For instance, studies have estimated that the number of refuges would exceed the total number of refugees globally should North Korea collapse. Even in a best-case scenario, where the collapse of North Korea did not turn violent, the political and economic effect would be extremely serious, mainly, for South Korea and China. And although South Korea and China have different objective in East Asia, they share similar and complex goals in regards to North Korea. This common understanding has supported relations between the two countries in the past and will continue to in the future. Certainly, they have more...