Could Korea-China FTA Strain Ties with U.S.?

      January 11, 2012 13:43

      Free-trade negotiations with China will inevitably bring tensions to South Korea-U.S. relations, diplomatic and security experts warn. The U.S.' diplomatic and military focus will shift from Europe to Asia-Pacific in order to contain China. At the end of last year, U.S. President Barack Obama said that the U.S. is "here to stay" in the Asia-Pacific region, and the new austere U.S. defense strategy unveiled last week also moves the priority from the Middle East and Europe to Asia.

      Korea is one of the key countries in the U.S.' new strategic endeavors. The Obama Administration has called Korea the "linchpin" in Northeast Asia. For the past 60 years, the South Korea-U.S. alliance was the cornerstone of security on the Korean Peninsula, and this is expected to continue.

      But the push for a South Korea-China FTA, which is practically an economic alliance, could clash with the South Korea-U.S. alliance. A government official said, "China must be hoping that the FTA with South Korea will cancel out the effect of the Trans-Pacific Partnership between Japan and the U.S. It is true that the FTA with China could strain Korea’s alliance with the U.S."

      But another government official said, "There is a difference between an FTA with an ally and an FTA with a country that has quite another political and economic system. The FTA with China will have limited effects on Korea's alliance with the U.S."

      Some pundits believe that the U.S. will not be able to openly oppose the FTA between Korea and China when it is aggressively advocating free markets.

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