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    Why It is in Seoul's Interest to Engage Moscow as a Geopolitical Mediator

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    It is in South Korea's interest to engage Russia as a mediator to ease tensions between Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo, South Korean academic Dr. Choi Gang told Sputnik. According to Dr. Choi, by playing the "Russia card," Seoul may find an "escape route" from its ongoing foreign policy chaos.

    South Korea's chaotic foreign policy could be fixed with Russia's assistance, Dr. Choi Gang, the Deputy Director of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, suggested in an interview with Sputnik Korean.

    "The Korean Peninsula's security depends on two equal forces — the US and China. However, given the possibility of an improvement in US-Russian relations, there is high likelihood of Russia taking [South] Korea's side," Dr. Choi told Sputnik Tuesday.

    Meanwhile, the Republic of Korea (ROK) has found itself in dire straits amid the corruption scandal involving South Korea's President Park Geun-hye and her aides, and a chill in relationships with China and Japan.

    The relationship between Seoul and Beijing has seriously deteriorated after the Park administration announced its willingness to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) network in South Korea. The Chinese leadership strongly opposed the deployment of the system, citing security issues.

    On the other hand, in early January Tokyo recalled its ambassador from the ROK over a statue near the Japanese consulate in the South Korean city of Busan commemorating Korean "comfort women."

    During the Second World War, Korea's women and girls were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army. A December 2015 agreement struck by Seoul and Tokyo was meant to bring an end to the longstanding feud. However, tensions over the wartime history continue to simmer.

    To complicate matters further, the ROK's nearest neighbor, Pyongyang, has announced that it has almost finished developing a long-range nuclear missile.

    "North Korea has set the goal of developing miniaturized nuclear weapons that can fit atop a missile capable of reaching the US by the end of 2017 or early 2018 as it takes into account political transitions in South Korea and the US," Thae Yong-ho, a high-profile North Korean defector, warned in his interview with Yonhap News Agency.

    Under these circumstances Seoul should turn to Russia to tackle the problem, Dr. Choi believes.

    "It is necessary to enlist the support of countries which could underpin [South] Korea's position amid the ongoing friction between [Seoul], Tokyo and Beijing," the academic underscored.

    There is yet another problem, according to Dr. Choi: it still remains unclear what the next US administration's approach toward South Korea will be.

    The South Korean academic suggested that it is time for Seoul to play the "Russia card."

    "Russia can take full advantage of the foreign policy rhetoric on the THAAD deployment as well as make comments on provocations from DPRK [the Democratic People's Republic of Korea]," Dr. Choi assumed.

    In the eyes of the academic, Russia's involvement in the peninsula's affairs could have created an "escape route" for South Korea from the current foreign policy chaos.

    Dr. Choi proposes bolstering economic and political ties with Russia.

    "We would find the 'emergency route' only if Kim Hong-kyun, Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs, goes to Russia, puts forward the issue of economic cooperation [between Russia and the ROK] and asks [Moscow] to assist [Seoul] to resolve political disputes with China and Japan," the academic emphasized.

    "[South] Korea considers itself a member of the tripartite structure, which comprises [South Korea], the United States and China, and this is a mistake," he stressed, reiterating the necessity of engaging Russia as a geopolitical mediator.

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    Tags:
    nuclear arms, corruption scandal, foreign policy, Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), Park Geun-hye, Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK), China, Japan, United States, Russia, Asia, South Korea
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