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The South Korean and U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategies: Seoul’s Cultivation of Regional Boldness from a Foundation of U.S. Alignment
Published November 2, 2023
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When South Korea released its “Strategy for a Free, Peaceful, and Prosperous Indo-Pacific Region” in December 2022—marking Seoul’s first-ever effort to develop a comprehensive regional strategy—early commentaries honed in on two seemingly contradictory observations. Many took note of the degree to which the core tenets of the Republic of Korea’s (ROK) strategy strongly resemble those of the “Indo-Pacific Strategy of the United States,” which was released in February 2022. A second set of observations stressed the ways in which references to China differ between the two strategies—with the U.S. directly calling out the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as a growing challenge engaged in “harmful behavior” and Seoul identifying China as a “key partner” and emphasizing inclusivity in a clear effort to not antagonize Beijing. This article takes a deep dive into examining the similarities and differences between the ROK and U.S. Indo-Pacific strategies, highlighting the degree to which these initial impressions are generally accurate but incomplete. Specifically, the paper argues that the ROK strategy is less U.S.-centric in its overall orientation and more aligned with the U.S. position on China than these early observations suggest.

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