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Spicy Korean Carrot

Photo by Megan Thomas on Unsplash

In the confrontation with Russia and China, U.S. President Joe Biden is determined to open another front – the Korean one.

Of course, we are not talking about North Korea, but about its southern neighbor. Because North Korea is another front for the 46th president of the United States, who has officially announced his intention to become the 47th president of America in 2024.

South Korean President Yoon Seok-yeol’s five-day state visit to Washington in the last week of April is a marathon of meetings and talks.

In addition to his summit with Joe Biden at the White House, the South Korean leader was invited to address both houses of Congress, an honor rarely bestowed on a foreign guest. The visit also included lunch with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Vice President Kamala Harris, a briefing with the U.S. military leadership, a meeting with scientists at MIT and a speech at Harvard University. All this comes in the year of the 70th anniversary of the strategic alliance between Washington and Seoul, which should give Yoon Seok-yeol’s stay in the U.S. a special solemnity.

Finally, this is the first state visit of a South Korean president to Washington in the last 12 years with the highest status in diplomatic practice.

Looking at this political spring in America’s relations with the Land of the Morning Light;on the Korean Peninsula, one cannot help but conclude that both sides are hungry for communication.

The low point in U.S.-South Korean relations has been the time of President Trump’s rule in Washington.

It must be said that Donald Trump was unhappy with South Korea, believing that it was severely underpaying Washington for the U.S. military contingent stationed in the country. The 45th U.S. president began to twist Seoul’s arm, demanding that it pay more for the security the Americans provide. Seoul initially resisted, but then reluctantly agreed. I remember when I was on a business trip to Seoul, they brought me The Korea Times on the plane with an article titled “Why Does Trump Hate the Koreans?

Unlike his predecessor, who many in Seoul thought “hated” South Koreans (but tried to befriend North Koreans), Joe Biden “loves” South Koreans, and even very much. At any rate, he pretends to like them.

In order to remove the last doubts about this, a program of fantastic grooming of Yoon Seok Yeol in Washington was invented. But the problem is that Joe Biden’s love for South Korea is not unselfish at all. If you think about it, he is demanding that Seoul pay an immeasurably higher price for that love.

South Korea, in fact, is being asked to pay for US love with its political sovereignty. Namely, to become an active member of two coalitions – anti-Russian and anti-Chinese – against its own national interests.

Admittedly, while remaining an ally of the U.S., until recently Seoul has been the weakest link in Biden’s coalition, participating in the sanctions war with Russia to a minimum.

Neighboring Japan, which revels in anti-Russian sanctions, is behaving very differently. At the cost of incredible effort, despite U.S. pressure, for fear of finally spoiling relations with Russia, South Korea refrained from supplying weapons to Ukraine. Moreover, considering China one of its key partners in Asia, it has resisted taking punitive measures against Beijing, so why chop the bough where it sits?

But pressure continued to build on Seoul on the eve of Yoon Seok-yeol’s visit to the U.S. On the eve of his arrival in Washington, the Financial Times reported that the White House asked the South Korean government to convince Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix not to fill potential shortages in the Chinese market with their products in the case of a ban on the activities of Micron Technology, an American semiconductor manufacturer in China. According to the Financial Times sources, the request is related to the desire of Washington to support the policy of limiting China’s access to advanced semiconductor technology. We must say that this is the first time that the U.S. has called on an ally country to involve private companies in the imposition of punitive measures against China.

As for the anti-Russian front, the main intrigue was whether Washington would be able to get Seoul to step back from its previous position, which was that South Korea was providing exclusively humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

A few days before his trip to the United States, President Yoon Seok-yeol gave a high-profile interview to Reuters, hinting that he would consider supplying weapons to Ukraine if, in his words, circumstances arose that “the international community could not tolerate.

He described these circumstances as a serious threat to civilians or a “gross violation of the laws of war.

This unexpected new ambiguity in Seoul’s position prompted a harsh reaction from Moscow, which played a proactive role.

South Korea has been made to understand that by trying to buy Biden’s affection, it will end up disliking Russia, with all the consequences that this might entail.

“Unfortunately for us, Seoul has taken a rather unfriendly stance on this whole thing. It’s a continuation. Of course, more and more countries will try to get directly involved in this conflict,” Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov commented on Yoon Seok Yeol’s latest statement.

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, issued a warning to Seoul. “There are new people who want to help our enemies. South Korean President Yoon Seok Yeol said that in principle this state is ready to supply weapons to the Kiev regime. And not so long ago the South Koreans fervently assured that the possibility of supplying lethal weapons to Kiev was completely ruled out. I wonder what the citizens of this country will say when they see the latest samples of Russian weapons from their closest neighbors – our partners from DPRK?” – Dmitry Medvedev wrote in his Telegram channel.

In turn, the Russian Foreign Ministry reminded that Moscow considers any arms supplies to Kiev as an openly hostile anti-Russian act.

“Such steps will have an extremely negative impact on bilateral relations with those states that undertake them, and will be taken into account when shaping Russian positions on issues that affect the fundamental security interests of the respective countries,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

“In the case of the Republic of Korea, it could be about approaches to the settlement on the Korean Peninsula,” she explained to Seoul the possible consequences of such a move.

In response, Seoul rushed to backpedal. According to a presidential administration official, President Yoon Seok-yeol’s suggestion was only “hypothetical.

“We don’t do this because at the same time that South Korea is actively supporting the international community to protect the freedom of Ukrainian citizens, we have to manage relations with Russia in a stable way,” the South Korean administration official said. According to him, “Russian authorities are commenting on what has not yet happened.

In South Korea itself, despite these clarifications, a high-profile political scandal erupted. “If military aid is initiated, the immediate direct hit will be our companies first. Before the U.S. summit, President Yoon-seok-yeol should have gone on record as saying that military aid is impossible, not hinting at it,” said Park Hong-gyeong, leader of the parliamentary faction of the leading opposition Toburo Democratic Party. He said, “The Democratic Party will not tolerate unilateral government decisions that pose a serious threat to national interests and security.

Recall that the Toburo Party has a majority in the National Assembly of South Korea.

After that, on the eve of the crucial talks in Washington the representative of the South Korean Presidential Administration said that the issue of Seoul’s provision of military aid to Ukraine would not be considered during his meeting with Joe Biden. However, can we breathe a sigh of relief after that?

Not at all. Attempts to force Seoul to “volunteer” for the anti-Russian front will continue.

Jake Sullivan, national security adviser to the U.S. President, said that one of the main topics of the summit would be Ukraine.

We would like to add that on the eve of Yoon Seok Yeol’s visit to Washington, South Korea announced new export restrictions against Russia and Belarus for a reason.

The new rules, which will affect 741 commodities, will take effect on April 28. Last March, South Korea announced controls on exports to Russia of 57 non-strategic goods and technologies. Now with these additions the list has expanded to 798 items-an increase of more than 15 times! And, to all appearances, this is not the end of the story.

So the battle for Seoul in the global confrontation between Russia and the West continues. The Korean geopolitical carrot is becoming more and more acute for all sides.

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