The South Korean government decided to no longer use terms such as “South Korea as a balancer in Northeast Asia” and “balancing diplomacy,” which have been its key concepts of diplomacy for about 12 years. The idea is to discard the terms that have resulted in tension from within and opt instead for a third way based on progressive pragmatism in order to regain the leadership with regard to issues related to the Korean Peninsula.
Kim Ki-jung, who was appointed as a vice chief of the National Security Office (NSO) on May 24, said last month, “With tensions escalating between the United States and China on issues surrounding the Korean Peninsula, what matters is how we secure our own diplomatic room, which means we don’t have to get ourselves into trouble by trying to choose either the U.S. or China, and flexible diplomacy is what we should pursue now in this regard.” National Intelligence Service (NIS) chief nominee Suh Hoon made similar remarks more recently, too.
The concepts and terms regarding South Korea’s diplomatic role as a balancer date back to 2005. At that time, the South Korean National Security Council came up with the terms and concepts so that the country can raise its voice on Korean Peninsula issues between Beijing and Washington. However, those continued to stir controversy and the previous Roh Moo-hyun, Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye administrations had different views and opinions on what the true balance point is.
The NSO and the NIS are the two main pillars of the diplomatic arm of the South Korean government. As such, the vice chief and chief nominees’ remarks imply that the Moon Jae-in administration’s diplomatic policy will focus on national interests in a progressive and pragmatic way and avoidance of useless ideological disputes. Dialogue is likely to be the starting point of the policy. “The new government is not planning to give any name to its diplomatic policy and is going to concentrate on the maximization of tangible positive effects of the policy,” the NIS chief nominee mentioned.