SOUTH KOREA AND THE INDO-PACIFIC STRATEGY: FROM STRATEGIC AMBIGUITY TO STRATEGIC AUTONOMY

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Yen Pham Thi
https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7717-5472

Abstract

Despite being urged and called upon by the United States to develop an Indo-Pacific strategy since 2017, South Korea showed signs of reluctance until the end of 2020, only officially announcing its strategy in 2022. This article aimed to clarify the reasons for South Korea’s ambiguity from 2017 to 2020 and the factors behind its transformation in the subsequent period. Utilizing the comparative analysis method and autonomous strategic theory, the article argued that South Korea shifted from a “strategic ambiguity” to a “strategic autonomy” to reduce dependence on China and the United States, asserting its position as a middle power. The results showed that before 2020, challenges from North Korea and economic relations with China made South Korea cautious about participating in the Indo-Pacific strategy. However, staying on the sidelines risked isolating it within the US alliance network. Meanwhile, concessions created opportunities for China to extend its influence over South Korea, even in cultural and social domains. Based on this, the article concluded that South Korea’s shift in approach to the Indo-Pacific region was necessary to affirm its middle power status.

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How to Cite
Pham Thi , Yen. 2023. “SOUTH KOREA AND THE INDO-PACIFIC STRATEGY: FROM STRATEGIC AMBIGUITY TO STRATEGIC AUTONOMY”. Journal of Liberty and International Affairs 9 (3):471-87. https://doi.org/10.47305/JLIA2393577t.
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Author Biography

Yen Pham Thi , Faculty of International Relations - HUFLIT, Vietnam

Pham Thi Yen (Yen, P.T), holding a Ph.D. in International Relations from VNU University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Hanoi, currently serves as a Lecturer and Secretary of the Science and Training Council at Ho Chi Minh City University of Foreign Languages – Information Technology (HUFLIT). In addition to her teaching role, she is a member of the Editorial Board of HUFLIT Journal of Science and leads the International Relations Research Group. Furthermore, she acts as a visiting lecturer at various universities in Southern Vietnam, teaching at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Specializing in defense cooperation, external relations of major countries, and Vietnam's external relations with major countries, Yen has authored two books: "Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam’s external relations (2002 – 2018)" and "Vietnam’s defense diplomacy with major countries in the 21st century". She has also contributed book chapters in both Vietnamese and English. Yen's articles have been published in reputable journals such as Strategic Analysis and Thammasat Review.