China looms as South Korea presidential candidates meet US diplomat – Community News
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China looms as South Korea presidential candidates meet US diplomat

SEOUL: A senior US diplomat will meet newly selected presidential candidates in South Korea this week ahead of next year’s elections that will determine the future of relations between the two allies.

US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink was set to arrive in Seoul on Wednesday (Nov. 10), with plans to hold separate talks with ruling Democratic Party candidate Lee Jae-myung and Yoon Suk-yeol of the main opposition People PowerParty.

While domestic issues like house prices are expected to dominate the March 9 election, analysts say the outcome will also determine South Korea’s balancing act between China and the United States, and how South Korea coordinates with its US ally on North. -Korea.

“With the partisan divisions over the issue of US-China relations, the upcoming elections will determine how South Korea remains balanced between the US and China over the next five years,” Washington-based think tank Stimson Center said in a statement. recent report.

US President Joe Biden’s administration is focused on building Asian alliances to counter what it has termed potential “coercion and aggression” by China.

That is a challenge for South Korea, which is not eager to provoke China, its largest economic partner.

South Korea paid a heavy economic price when China retaliated for the deployment of a US missile defense system in South Korea in 2017. South Korea’s deep reliance on China was further highlighted this week by a critical shortage of urea, an additive used in diesel vehicles to reduce emissions, after China tightened exports.

According to his campaign, Lee will also meet with the Chinese ambassador this week. Yoon’s campaign said it has not yet scheduled a meeting with Chinese officials.

Democratic Party candidate Lee has argued that there is no need for South Korea to limit itself by choosing between China and the United States as they become increasingly competitive.

“I wish our country would go down a path where we are not unilaterally influenced, abandoned or excluded by either side, and I am confident I can do that,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“If you ask me to choose between the United States and China, I would say there are not just two options that we can choose,” he said.

The United States is South Korea’s largest and oldest ally, stationing approximately 28,500 troops in South Korea as part of its efforts to deter North Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War.

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