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Free, Peaceful and Prosperous: South Korea’s Indo-Pacific Strategy and Middle Power Convergence with Australia
Author: Rory Medcalf
Published November 2, 2023
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Over the past decade, the “Indo-Pacific” concept has replaced the late 20th century “Asia-Pacific” as a central frame of reference for strategy and external policy. Definitions vary. Some cast the Indo-Pacific as a neutral term for the connectivity of a two-ocean region. Others depict it more as loaded code for balancing or even allegedly containing Chinese power through coalition building across a larger regional canvas. In any case, many nations and international institutions have adopted variants of the Indo-Pacific as a framing concept for strategy and external policy. This pattern has extended beyond early advocates such as Quad partners Australia, Japan, India, and the United States to include the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union. Although the Indo-Pacific is often associated, particularly with Japan and its influential prime minister, the late Abe Shinzo, in fact, Australia was the first country to formally recognize the Indo-Pacific as its regional security environment. As a fellow middle power and independent-minded U.S. ally, with its own geopolitical complexities to navigate, Australia provides an illuminating example for South Korea as it operationalizes its Indo-Pacific strategy. This article examines two points of particular focus: the insights ROK policymakers can draw from Australia’s Indo-Pacific story; and a consideration of how Australia (along with other Indo-Pacific partners) can support South Korea’s sustained engagement across the two-ocean region, for the benefit of region-wide stability, prosperity, and openness

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