"The universal values ​​pursued by NATO, such as peace and security, human rights and democracy, are perfectly aligned with the policy direction of the new government. As a global leader, we want to more actively contribute to the protection of norms-based international order."

(President Seok-Yeol Yoon, June 30, Spanish compatriots meeting)

There are three people A, B and C.

To A, B is a person who lives in a different village, but has been friends for a long time and has received a lot of help during that time.

It hasn't been a long time since I've known C from A, but as a person living in the same town, I've been involved in several businesses recently.

However, recently, the relationship between B and C has rapidly deteriorated.

It was a strategic choice for each, but the period once called 'détente' has now disappeared into history.

Above all, the immediate background of the conflict is that C's living is rapidly improving, threatening the role of B as a leader.

The Complex Triangle Dilemma

Enlarging an image

How should A respond to this situation?

The model answer is that 'B and C don't take sides, get along with both sides, and if the circumstances allow, mediation should be made so that both sides can live amicably.'

However, this is only a model answer.

Reality is not in textbooks.

Conflicts between B and C often force A to stand on either side.

A tightrope that does not take sides, so-called 'strategic ambiguity', may result in abandonment from both sides.

In this situation, B and C know that there will be a big fight if they face each other directly, so they can express their anger to A.

Shrimp, etc. can explode in a whale fight.

However, if A takes the side of B or C, it is the same as turning the other into an enemy.

If B's ​​side is taken, setbacks may be inevitable for several businesses that C has recently partnered with.

B lives in a different village, whereas C lives in the same village, so there are a lot of face-to-face encounters.

In addition, C has exerted influence over A's brother A', who is a troublemaker in the family, and if he turns his back on C, C will stop exercising influence over A', and there is a possibility that A' will create a bigger trouble in the family. have.

It's scary to take the side of C.

First of all, C is still less reliable than B.

Another stumbling block is that there are more people on B's side than C's when including the village where A lives and other villages that A interacts with.

The moment you stand on C's side, you can turn B and many others as enemies.

A and B have promised to help each other when they are in trouble, and younger brother A' has always raised his voice to deal only with B, but it is difficult to predict how A' will turn out when he loses to B.

A multidimensional matrix added to a triangle

Enlarging an image

This alone is a difficult situation for A.

However, there is also a relationship with D and E.

D is best friends with B, but he has a difficult relationship with A.

There is also a dark past between A and D.

However, D, who lives in the same village, criticizes C and sticks to B.

D, who is not on good terms with A', does not hesitate to criticize A'.

In order for A to get closer to B, the relationship with D must also be resolved, but the people of A's family still have bad feelings for D.

D has never properly apologized for his misdeeds toward A in the past.

However, if A is hesitant to approach B, then B is more likely to take the side of D rather than A in many matters.

E, who had never had a bad relationship with A, has recently been rapidly getting closer to C.

In fact, C and E have been friends for a long time while studying as alumni at the same school in the past.

If A distances itself from C, the relationship with E may also become distant.

It is also a consideration that E has also exerted influence over A's brother A'.

However, B and E have recently been in an antagonistic relationship.

If A takes C's side, it will end up taking E's side, so from A's point of view, it may be in a hostile relationship with B.

But recently, E has committed unacceptable atrocities.

But if C is still on the side of E, what should A choose?

If South Korea, North Korea, the United States, China, Japan, and Russia are substituted for A, A', B, C, D, and E, the above situation is similar to the current international situation.

During the 3 nights and 5 days NATO summit, President Yoon Seok-yeol's opening speech at the Spanish compatriots' meeting was an expression of South Korea's will to stand on the side of the US in a confrontational situation between the US and China.

NATO, led by the United States, has pointed out China as a 'systematic challenge' force, that is, a check-in force through the concept of a new strategy. It was enough.

“President Yoon Seok-yeol’s participation in the NATO summit was not an easy decision.”

Enlarging an image

However, an official from the presidential office said,

"President Yoon's participation in the NATO summit was not an easy decision

. "

Attendance at the NATO summit itself is highly likely to be viewed as taking a specific position between the US and China, which could worsen relations with China.

However, in a situation where other countries in the Asia-Pacific region such as Japan, Australia, and New Zealand are expected to attend, if only Korea does not attend, another side effect may occur.

The words of an official from the presidential office can be interpreted as meaning that President Yoon thought about this dilemma.

Nevertheless, the decision to attend the NATO summit was

"a strong influence on President Yoon's idea that he should stand on the side of the rule-based international order,

" the official said.

The intention is that Russia's invasion of Ukraine, that is, the Ukraine War, was the decisive reason for attending the NATO summit.

It can also be interpreted to the effect that Russia's atrocities of aggression in Ukraine facilitated Korea's choice in a contradictory situation in which whatever choice Korea makes, there is no choice but to pay in return.

Indeed, the Ukrainian war changed many things in the international order.

The Ukrainian War is actually the first large-scale military operation on continental Europe since World War II.

It also shattered the belief that war would not be waged in the 21st century post-Cold War.

The Ukrainian War also served as a decisive moment for NATO, which moved from traditional security, that is, military security cooperation, to comprehensive security cooperation such as climate change, terrorism, and human security, to move back to the field of collective security, that is, military security.

The reason why many NATO members, who are in a dilemma in China relations like Korea, defined China as a de facto hostile force in the concept of a new strategy that NATO will operate for the next 10 years, can be attributed to the Ukraine war.

To the extent that China supports Russia despite the Ukraine war, China has come to define it as a threat to NATO members along with Russia.

NATO wrote in the concept of the new strategy that

'the reinforced attempt between the two countries to strengthen the strategic partnership between China and Russia and weaken the rule-based international order is contrary to NATO's values ​​and interests'

. The attempt by both countries to weaken it' is interpreted as referring to the cooperation between Russia and China despite the Ukraine war.

Concerns about Korea's geopolitical situation that differs from European countries

Enlarging an image

Nevertheless, from the perspective of Korea, which has a lot of economic exchanges with China, there is no choice but to worry about China's backlash.

NATO members, which are defined as China's check-in force, are geographically distant from China.

On the other hand, South Korea is in the same region as China, and China exerts a lot of influence on North Korea, the biggest security issue in South Korea.

Here, there is also the experience of the past government, which suffered measles in China's economic retaliation despite 'strategic ambiguity' and further 'Chinese tilt (biased toward China)'.

If that is the case, wouldn't it be more difficult if we turn our backs on China?

It is a concern that arises naturally.

With the NATO summit as an opportunity, South Korea abandoned the past 'strategic ambiguity' and chose the 'strategic clarity' of the US supremacy.

So, what is suggested as a solution in the future is the necessity of managing diplomatic messages to China.

Korea is on the side of the US, but Korea does not need to provoke China.

This is because Korea is different from simply taking the U.S. side and criticizing China with the U.S. or Korea taking the lead.

Even government officials are unaware of this.

A high- ranking government official said,

"Our government is unlikely to mention China first

. "

It means that even if the rhetoric of liberal democracy, values, and solidarity is emphasized, it will not cause unnecessary stimulation by pointing out the object on the other side as 'China'.

says repeatedly.

In this situation, there is no need for Korea to take the lead and stimulate China.

However, it is true that the Yoon Seok-yeol administration, who declared that 'NATO values ​​are perfectly consistent with government policies' when NATO began to explicitly criticize China, did not agree with NATO's position. It is obviously more difficult than before.

“When Korea-US relations were good, Korea-China relations were not bad.”

Enlarging an image

On the other hand, while the necessity of managing diplomatic messages to China is premised, there is an opinion that concerns about China's backlash due to the US slant are exaggerated.

A diplomatic source said,

"In the past, when Korea-US relations were good, relations between Korea and China were not bad

. "

This is different from saying that 'Korea-China relations were good when Korea-US relations were good'.

The reason is this.

When Korea-US relations are not good, China only has to deal with Korea in Korea-China relations.


if South Korea and the United States are closely aligned, the influence of the United States behind South Korea cannot be ignored when dealing with China against South Korea.

When China inflicts tangible and intangible retaliation against Korea, if the United States resists, China will have no choice but to consider measures against Korea.

This means that the strong backbone of the United States can be a strong defense from South Korea's point of view.

They tried to approach China, but were not able to approach clearly conscious of their relationship with the United States, and in the process, the relationship between the US and Korea loosened. are summoned

Concerns over China's different status and 'implicit' from the past

Enlarging an image

The question is whether the rules of thumb of the past can be applied in the present.

The China of today is different from the China of the past.

Today's China, which is being reborn as a global top 2 (G-2) in name and reality, has more tools to deal with Korea living in the same village compared to China in the past.

In a situation where Korea's trade dependence on China has increased, as a result, such as the 'urea water crisis', the means that can make Korea difficult have increased.

Among the use of these means, there may be some issues that Korea, as well as the United States, behind Korea, do not deserve to be raised.

In this situation, can the proposition that 'good Korea-US relations beget good Korea-China relations' can be realized?

Another concern is about the 'implicit' raised by alliance theory.

If a clash between the US and China occurs while South Korea is closely attached to the US, there is a possibility that Korea will naturally stand on the side of the US and fall into a whirlpool of conflict between the US and China.

This means that the space for a consistent and strategic message to China may disappear depending on the development of US-China relations in the future.

However, since diplomacy is done through 'words', the solution again is to strengthen strategic communication between the US and China.

It is necessary to prevent the possibility of making unreasonable demands on Korea while making both sides of the US and China understand the strategic environment of Korea, and consistently know the limits of the range that Korea can accept from both sides.

Of course, it's not as easy as it sounds.

The advent of a new Cold War that blocks strategic autonomy and imposes choices

The confrontational structure between the West and China, including the United States, has gone beyond the post-Cold War and is causing the international situation of a new Cold War again.

Like the Cold War, the new Cold War system forces individual countries to take a particular side.

The fact that Finland and Sweden, which have maintained neutrality, are pushing for NATO membership is a symbolic aspect of the changed international situation.

The problem is that, unlike European countries, South Korea has overlapping relationships with countries such as North Korea, Japan, and Russia in the space of Northeast Asia as well as the United States and China, so strategic autonomy is sometimes necessary. It is highly likely to be blocked.

Enlarging an image

At a press conference on the 30th of last month, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg revealed his

difficulties at the NATO level in response to a reporter's question that

'there are echoes of the Cold War in NATO's new strategic concept' .

"NATO has a responsibility to prevent [the threat of war] from going beyond Ukraine



he said.

Although the direction was set to pressure Russia and further China, it is a part of NATO's difficulty in preventing an escalation of war.

Korea's concerns are deeper and more complex than those of NATO.

Standing on the side of the United States, but not attributing China as an enemy, and not attributing China as an enemy, but inducing China to exert a positive influence on North Korea, strengthens relations with the United States, and in the process strengthens its relations with the Korean people and Japan. A situation in which it is necessary to persuade and improve relations with Japan.

The high-level diplomatic equation was given as homework to the Yun Seok-yeol administration, which had a clear diplomatic stance.