Balancing economic security and geopolitical challenges in the evolving ROK-U.S. alliance
Technology is shaping the landscape of global competition, revolutionizing economies, and transforming military capabilities. As emerging technologies like AI, drones, and robotics gain prominence, they also pose novel threats that demand a new security agenda. Against this backdrop, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the United States have upgraded their alliance to a “Global Comprehensive Strategic Alliance,” encompassing economic and technological partnerships. However, the integration of economic security and technological cooperation into the alliance raises questions about its feasibility and desirability. This article explores the challenges and opportunities of the evolving ROK-U.S. alliance and the implications for technological cooperation.
Tenets of Enduring Alliances
– Alliances endure when founded on common interests, credibility, equity, and domestic support.
– The ROK-U.S. alliance must overcome disparities in threat perceptions and interests.
– Effective communication and engagement with the public are crucial for building domestic and international support.
Threat Perception and Credibility in Commitment
– The United States views China’s technological advancements as a threat to its global competitiveness.
– South Korea shares concerns about China’s misuse of technology but does not see it as an imminent national security threat.
– The U.S. security logic for countering Chinese technology threats lacks specific goals and trade-offs, challenging the credibility of its commitment.
– South Korea’s commitment to technological cooperation with the United States faces challenges from a polarized and complex domestic political environment.
– Public opinion shows a clear divide between economic and security interests, with concerns about economic losses and the perception of America-First policies.
– President Yoon’s low approval rating adds uncertainty to the future of the alliance and its technological partnership.
Economic Security: Equity and Benefits
– Economic security is crucial in the face of intensifying competition, weaponization of industries, and fragmented supply chains.
– South Korea’s global competitiveness lies in its technological competency, but its high dependence on imports and the Chinese market poses risks.
– Joining the Chip 4 alliance offers opportunities to reduce dependence on China and leverage a competitive edge, but it also presents threats of economic losses and retaliation.
Implications for the Tech Alliance
– The feasibility of the Chip 4 alliance or a broader ROK-U.S. tech alliance is challenged by diverging interests, lack of shared vision, and policy frameworks.
– Credibility in commitment and dependability are essential for successful cooperation.
– South Korea’s economic security dilemma requires a balance between national security and economic interests.
The ROK-U.S. alliance is at a crossroads as it expands its scope to include economic security and technological cooperation. The success of this partnership depends on shared objectives, credibility in commitments, equitable benefits, and strong domestic support. To strengthen the alliance, the United States should recognize the diverging interests of its partners and work towards a shared policy framework. South Korea needs to emphasize safeguarding national security and economic interests to gain domestic support. Both countries should engage in multi-track diplomacy and prioritize low-risk initiatives to reduce political backlash. While the challenges are significant, a strong and forward-looking ROK-U.S. alliance in the technological ecosystem is critical for the future.