GOOD MORNING FROM LONDON
In May 2022 in South Korea, the winner of last week’s tight Presidential Election, Mr Yoon Suk-yeol will take office. He is quite new to politics with little foreign affairs experience. He leads the conservative People Power Party and a big question hanging over the transition of power is whether the incoming Yoon will risk a confrontation with China over the key question of the instalment of the US-made THAAD missile system (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense). Yoon defeated his opponent, President Moon Jae-in by less than one percentage point, the narrowest of margins.
Yoon was astute + gained support by arguing that his left-leaning opponent was too lenient with China. During the Election, anti-China sentiment increased in connection with the Beijing Winter Olympics where two South Korean speed skaters were disqualified from an event that was won by Chinese skaters. South Korea entered an appeal that was rejected by the Olympic officials.
Yoon has said that his main foreign policy goal will be to bolster the country’s alliance with the US and the indications are that the THAAD issue will continue to strengthen S Korea/US relations. China has objected to S Korea’s adoption of THAAD because its radar could be used to carry out surveillance of China’s territory. A change for the worse is, therefore, expected in the state of relations between South Korea and China. How will he affect stability in South East Asia?
China will watch and wait. It recognises a state’s right to select its government. Governments do come + go and the political temperature can move in both directions. China looks for continuity but is braced for disruption. She will encourage the maintenance of good state-to-state relations – but with its eyes wide open.
#378 ON 18 MARCH 2022