Having focused on North Korea, I want to consider South Korea. More specifically, ex-South Korean leader Park Geun-hye’s removal from office by a constitutional court vote. The ousting comes amid a myriad of protests triggered by the former President’s supposed involvement in corruption.
While this move is a fascinating exercise in unofficial but pure democratic force – whether just or unjust – the world is seemingly less interested in what this means for South Korea but rather what this means for an increasingly unstable and volatile Asia. As China and North Korea seem to maintain their uneasy alliance in spite of missile testing, the US is actively responding to the threat by deploying a THAAD system (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence, a system that defends against incoming missile attacks from inside or outside the atmosphere via missile interception) that, like missile defence systems deployed during the Cold War, threatens to escalate the production of arms in the area.
China has been seen as quite aggressive in response to this strategic deployment in the Republic of Korea and yet their website has seen no changes to even indicate a recognition of Trump’s presidency, let alone any of the crises that Korea has been part of recently. The Chinese website reads as a glowing report card of things that China is “urging” the world to do, like a father that wants to push their child to make good decisions.
So why is this relevant to the loss of an elected official in South Korea?
The US will be sending B-1 and B-52 strategic nuclear bombers to South Korea in response to increased threats from a dangerous and likely armed North Korea. However, if China gets the sense that weakened leadership and increased US involvement, combined with the ever increasing US-Australian military exercises, are just a little too coincidental, we can only expect to see an escalation in tension that has not been seen since the 1980s.
Whether Trump was something you wanted or hated, his administration appears increasingly unaware of how delicate the situation in Asia really is, specifically around the South China Sea. As the US blindly supports their usual allies and wildly antagonises those they believe to be “wrong”, the responsibility of delicacy balanced with strength in that region falls rather squarely on the shoulders of South Korea. The US can no longer be relied upon for anything more than bankrolling aggressive attitude across the global stage.
Knowing that China is becoming ever frustrated with the US, Australia and most intervening powers, was it prudent for such a shift in power in South Korea to have taken place now?
It’s now too dangerous a situation to simply brush domestic affairs in hot-spot regions such as the Koreas or the Middle East under the rug, calling their timing ‘unfortunate’ as the world takes one more arrogant stride towards the abyss. It’s time for South Korea and the world to recognise that in these connected times, there is no such thing as a domestic matter.
Written By: James King