US election outcome not to change direction of South Korea-US alliance: Seoul envoy

Seoul:  The overall direction of South Korea’s alliance with the US will not change no matter who wins the White House in November, as the breadth and depth of the alliance has never been greater, its top envoy to Washington said Thursday.

Ambassador to the US Cho Hyun-dong made the remark as attention is running high over what would be a rematch between the sitting US President Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump and how its result will impact the future of the South Korea-US alliance, Yonhap news agency reported.

Some have raised concern over the alliance’s prospects if Trump returns to the White House, given his unorthodox foreign policy that places less importance on the value of alliances.

“At the moment, we have no idea how the US presidential election will turn out. Variables like the swing states, the middle-of-the-road voters and third candidates, are indicators that will determine the direction of the election,” Cho said, addressing a press conference at the foreign ministry in Seoul.

Cho was in Seoul this week to attend an annual conference of the chiefs of South Korean diplomatic missions.

“I want to make one thing clear. That the level of the South Korea-US alliance is stronger than ever before,” Cho said.

He took note of the security cooperation that has further advanced since the launch of the Yoon Suk Yeol government and the leaders’ April summit last year, which was followed by “multilayered” high-level exchanges.

“Strong security cooperation, like the NCG, and cooperation in the economy, science and technology, which are closely linked, has become so much more institutionalised that it’s difficult to simply define it as a deepening of cooperation,” Cho said.

The NCG refers to the Nuclear Consultative Group, a bilateral platform to discuss nuclear and strategic planning issues. Creating the NCG was part of the Washington Declaration that Yoon and US President Joe Biden adopted during the summit.

“In this context, the overall direction of the development of the South Korea-US alliance will remain unchanged no matter what the outcome of the November US presidential election,” he said.

Regarding the alliance’s prospects, the Trump side, despite his unpredictable behaviour and various past comments belittling the merit of alliances, never questioned the fundamentals of the alliance with South Korea, a senior foreign ministry official in Seoul said.

In terms of how South Korea is preparing for the post-US election, the government is taking a “balanced approach” given the “sensitivity” of the election issues, the official said.

“A discreet approach is the direction we believe is desirable,” he said.


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