Center for American Progress

RELEASE: South Korea’s Shifting Attitudes Toward China Open Door for Improved Relations With US
Press Release

RELEASE: South Korea’s Shifting Attitudes Toward China Open Door for Improved Relations With US

Washington, D.C. — Shifting attitudes toward China have created new opportunities for South Korean cooperation with the United States, Japan, and other regional partners, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress.

The shift has important implications for the United States in its alliance with South Korea and its strategic posture in the region. The report cites South Korea’s 2017 deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system and subsequent economic reprisals from China as the start of changing attitudes among South Koreans. Now, polls show an overwhelming majority of South Koreans view the United States as the country’s most important partner in protecting national security.

“South Korea’s presidential election this year showed that Korean voters are more interested in working with the United States and other democracies in the region to address common challenges,” said Tobias Harris, a senior fellow at CAP and co-author of the report. “The United States should leverage the pro-American sentiment of South Korea’s new president to deepen bilateral cooperation.”

The report urges the Biden administration to take the following steps as it looks to advance U.S. strategic interests in the region:

  • Persuade members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue—Australia, India, and Japan—to invite South Korea to join the coalition.
  • Press Japan to strengthen relations with South Korea.
  • Launch a dialogue on how to mitigate against future PRC economic coercion against South Korea.

Read the report: “Rising Anti-China Sentiment in South Korea Offers Opportunities To Strengthen US-ROK Relations” by Haneul Lee, Tobias Harris, and Alan Yu

For more information, or to speak with an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at shananel@americanprogress.org.