Japan is trying hard to keep China in check by means of its alliance with the United States, while South Korea is engaged in a hedging strategy between the U.S. and China to not suffer losses. “It seems that South Korea and Japan are responding in different ways to China’s acts and remarks,” the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission claimed in its annual report released on Nov. 20 (local time).
According to the report, Japan has reformed its legal and system frameworks so as to reinforce its military cooperation with the U.S. and promote the flexible deployment of the Self-Defense Forces based on its policy for active contribution to peace while trying to be more responsible in its region based on the solid US-Japan Alliance, establishing closer networks with its neighboring security partners in Southeast Asia and strengthening the capabilities of the Self-Defense Forces.
Meanwhile, the commission claimed that South Korea is continuing its alliance with the U.S. while establishing closer ties with China with its relations with Japan aggravated at the same time. “Seoul is looking to achieve some strategic independence from Washington,” it read, adding, “This is evidenced by the fact that South Korea refused to take part in the US-led missile defense system, maintaining that the expansion of the THAAD to the Korean peninsula is excessive.”
The report continued that the South is trying to show China that it is putting a limit on its missile defense capabilities on one side, while approving of greater military cooperation with the U.S. on the other. “Such an ambiguous stance is because of the strong economic ties between South Korea and China,” it commented, continuing, “Seoul is reluctant to participate in the U.S.-led initiative, which is regarded as containment against China, although it is not going to pursue economic cooperation with China at a sacrifice of the Korea-US Alliance.”
The commission also mentioned that Seoul is trying to keep its distance from Tokyo, which implies non-containment on the perspective of Beijing, and this would impede the achievement of an integrated regional security scheme among the U.S., South Korea, and Japan in the near future.