South Korea is simply a technological powerhouse and a cardinal portion of the planetary proviso chain. It’s present besides caught successful the intensified strategical rivalry betwixt the United States and China. Both superpowers are wanting the East Asian federation to prime a side.
Following galore visits from apical U.S. officials, Beijing past week sent Li Zhanshu, China’s third-highest-ranking Chinese Communist Party (CCP) official, to South Korea, to enactment unit connected Seoul’s overseas argumentation direction.
Li, president of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, arrived successful Seoul accompanied by a 66-member delegation on Sept. 15.
During his three-day visit, helium met with President Yoon Suk-yeo, his South Korean counterpart Kim Jin-pyo, and different apical Korean officials.
It has been 7 years since specified a high-profile gathering took place. Li’s predecessor Zhang Dejiang visited South Korea successful 2015.
Li met with Yoon and South Korean National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo on Sept.16, successful a nationalist gathering wherever South Korea and China agreed to grow cooperation, fortify strategical communications to resoluteness the North Korean atomic issue, and support bid connected the Korean Peninsula.
However, successful backstage talks, Li reportedly expressed beardown dissatisfaction toward South Korea successful a fig of areas, notably the deployment of THAAD anti-missile systems and South Korea’s subject practice with the United States and Japan, and its perchance joining the U.S.-led semiconductor quadrilateral (Chip 4) alliance.
The THAAD Issue
THAAD is simply a U.S.-designed and manufactured anti-missile strategy that was installed successful South Korea betwixt 2016 and 2017 arsenic a bulwark against a imaginable North Korean rocket attack.
But Beijing has insisted that the deployment of THAAD affects China’s information and has since adopted a bid of countermeasures against South Korea.
In effect to the THAAD issue, Yoon reportedly told Li during the gathering that the U.S.-led anti-missile strategy should not hinder bilateral relations.
“[The 2 sides request to pass closely] to marque definite that THAAD does not go an obstacle to South Korea-China relations,” Yoon said, according to the statesmanlike office.
However, Li reportedly expressed the CCP’s unilateral presumption without hesitation successful the backstage gathering with Korean National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo.
Li told Kim that Beijing’s absorption to THAAD’s deployment was not directed astatine South Korea but due to the fact that the “United States has impure intentions to undermine China’s strategical and information interests,” Korea JoongAng Daily reported.
To Li’s comment, Kim replied that the THAAD strategy is simply a “means of self-defense to support our radical from North Korea’s superior atomic and rocket threats, and it is not a means of threatening a 3rd country.”
He added that “if the North Korean atomic contented is resolved, the THAAD contented volition beryllium resolved naturally” and requested China’s practice truthful that “North Korea tin instrumentality the way of dialog and diplomacy.”
The United States has pushed South Korea to articulation its galore alliances, which China powerfully opposes.
The U.S.-led Chip 4 confederation aims to fortify practice successful the semiconductors manufacture among the United States and the East Asian powerhouses of Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan to physique a unafraid proviso concatenation that excludes China.
Taiwan and Japan person already agreed to enactment successful the confederation successful March.
Although South Korea has remained non-committal owed to mounting unit from Beijing, the state precocious announced it would be the preliminary gathering of Chip 4.
During the backstage meeting, Li told Kim that “a U.S.-centered semiconductor confederation is not successful the interests of China,” JoongAng reported.
In effect to Li, Kim denied that the confederation would exclude China, adding that successful bid to stabilize the proviso concatenation betwixt South Korea and China, it is indispensable to further make multi-level economical cooperation, specified arsenic the South Korea-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
Likewise, South Korea’s information successful the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) successful May has besides acrophobic Beijing. During the talks, Li said specified a determination would “suppress China’s economical influence.”
However, Kim explained that the model is “guided by the principles of openness, transparency, and inclusiveness. A level for stableness and prosperity successful the Indo-Pacific.”
IPEF is different U.S.-led determination that aims to antagonistic China. It restricts subordinate countries from importing and exporting strategical commodities to China, referencing minerals including uranium, earthy materials for batteries specified arsenic lithium and cobalt, and electrical and physics products including semiconductors and telecommunications.
Critical Minerals Supply
Shortly aft South Korea’s determination successful May to enactment successful the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), the state joined the U.S.-led Minerals Security Partnership (MSP) to chopped its dense reliance connected Chinese earthy materials and mineral imports.
South Korea’s overseas ministry said connected June 15 that the country’s determination to articulation the MSP is simply a follow-up measurement to the U.S.-South Korea acme successful May and to “pave the mode for proviso concatenation diversification.”
The MSP is an planetary confederation with aims to unafraid a unchangeable and divers mineral proviso chain. Member countries see the United States, South Korea, Canada, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, the European Commission, Finland, France, Australia, and Norway.
The concern is wide seen arsenic an effort to curb Chinese dominance successful the critical minerals market.
Critical metals see cobalt, copper, precious metals, nickel, uranium, lithium, magnesium, and galore others. They are earthy materials utilized successful captious industries specified arsenic semiconductors, telecommunications, computing, aerospace, defense, and electrical car batteries.
Since China controls implicit two-thirds of the planetary accumulation of uncommon world elements important to modern technologies, a cutoff of those supplies volition importantly harm different economies.
In galore instances, Beijing has weaponized its dominance successful the minerals marketplace by threatening to chopped disconnected supplies to different nations.
For example, successful 2010, Beijing blocked its uncommon world merchandise exports to Japan implicit the long-standing quality astir power of unpopulated islands successful the East China Sea, aft an incidental betwixt ships from Japan’s naval self-defense unit and Chinese sportfishing vessels.
Japan did not relinquish its claims to the islands amid the hostility but actively warned different nations of China’s unreliable trading practices, including caller warnings from Japan’s Ambassador to Australia, Yamagami Shingo, arsenic Beijing employed akin tactics by imposing quotas and ample tariffs connected Australian goods coming into China. Beijing’s determination came aft Australia’s telephone for an probe into the root of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To trim reliance connected China, U.S. President Joe Biden successful March invoked the Defense Production Act to spur greater home output of cardinal minerals successful the United States.
Although the Yoon medication has made a clear shift successful cementing relations with the United States and joined respective U.S.-proposed alliances since taking bureau successful May, it is besides trying to support economical ties with China.
Unlike Japan and Taiwan, South Korea inactive has China arsenic its biggest trading partner. South Korean exports to China accounted for 25.3 percent of its exports done 2021, astir 10 percent higher than to the United States, according to The Korea Herald.
Last year, South Korea’s semiconductor exports amassed $128 billion—those to China accounted for 39 percent of the total, and those to China and Hong Kong accounted for 60 percent, Business Korea reported.
In addition, South Korean tech conglomerates Samsung Electronics and S.K. Hynix some person large representation chip accumulation plants successful China.
Samsung’s lone NAND flash works is located in Xi’an, which accounts for much than 40 percent of its NAND flash output. S.K. Hynix produces DRAM chips successful Wuxi, accounting for 45 percent of its full DRAM spot accumulation and astir 15 percent of the world’s DRAM output.
Furthermore, according to the World Bank, much than 21 percent of South Korea’s imports travel from China. The precocious level of dependence entails that immoderate disruption successful the Chinese proviso concatenation could instantly interaction the South Korean economy.
For example, conscionable past year, a shortage of urea supplied by China threatened to cripple economical enactment successful South Korea. Among different uses, urea is utilized to chopped emissions successful diesel vehicles and marque fertilizer.
In mid-October past year, China reduced its urea exports due to a ember shortage, putting South Korea successful a heavy situation arsenic the country’s astir 4 cardinal diesel vehicles cannot run without urea, sending its logistics manufacture into chaos.
The incidental highlighted the resource-poor country’s dense reliance connected China for the indispensable items it needs to support concern arsenic usual. Since then, large South Korean industries person begun accelerating plans to build diversified accumulation bases worldwide.
‘Wiser to Pick a Side Instead of Playing Tightrope Diplomacy’
The Chinese state-run Global Times published an editorial titled “South Korea Should Have the Courage to Say ‘No’ to U.S. Coercion” connected July 20, criticizing the Chip 4 confederation and threatening South Korea that joining it could pb to important losses.
The nonfiction noted that 60 percent of South Korea’s $128 cardinal successful semiconductor exports past twelvemonth were exported to China and Hong Kong, and to permission specified a marketplace would beryllium equivalent to “commercial suicide.”
Under mounting unit from Beijing, South Korea has yet to denote its determination connected whether to enactment successful the Chip 4 alliance. The state repeatedly stated that it does not privation to “provoke China” and hence has taken a non-committal attack to definite U.S.-led initiatives.
On the different hand, South Korean nationalist sentiment believes that the state is much babelike connected the United States successful determination information and precocious spot exertion and equipment, according to a JoongAng Daily report.
In an interrogation with The Epoch Times, Wen Rui, a existent events commentator and China expert, said, “If South Korea insists connected trying to find a equilibrium betwixt [the U.S. and China], it would apt extremity up offending some sides.”
“It would beryllium a wiser determination for [South Korea] to prime a broadside and basal with it,” Wen said, adding that the United States would beryllium the wide prime arsenic it aligns with nationalist sentiment and the country’s semipermanent interests.
He explained that adjacent if South Korea becomes diplomatically estranged from China, its apical representation chips tin inactive beryllium exported to China.
“For example, Taiwan’s chips proceed to beryllium exported to China contempt the stalemate with the CCP,” Wen added.