Thursday 16 Aug 2018 | 10:56 | SYDNEY
Thursday 16 Aug 2018 | 10:56 | SYDNEY

Australia and Korea: On firmer ground


Malcolm Cook

16 April 2008 16:17

Brendan’s point is that at the same time the new left-leaning Australian government is calling for a more multilateralist foreign policy, the new conservative government in Seoul is pushing a more bilateralist foreign policy focused on strengthening the US alliance, repairing relations with Japan and taking a firmer line with Pyongyang. In many ways, then, Australian and Korean foreign policies are moving back to where they were pre-Howard and pre-Kim Dae-jung and Roh Myu-hoon, at which point Australia and South Korea worked well together in forming APEC and in helping to bring China into APEC. I wonder what examples of closer cooperation with Australia emanating from Seoul came during the Kim-Roh years, especially during the Roh years where relations between Seoul and Tokyo and Seoul and Washington were troubled? Kim Dae-jung did lead the push for the formation of the East Asia Summit through convening the East Asia Vision Group, yet this report did not call for the expansion of the Summit to include Australia. This was Koizumi-led push and one Korea had little role in.

My reading of the inconvenient term of convenience, 'middle power', is that middle powers are states with some weight in the globe or region, but not decisive weight. They do best when their foreign policies place them on good terms with states of decisive weight that they hope to influence and that can work together with other middle powers on common plans to help influence great powers and the region they reside in. Hence, it is a good thing for Australia that the new government in Seoul is focused on better and stronger relations with the US and Japan and China. So is Australia. Particularly under the Roh Government, South Korea did not fulfill this initial condition of being an effective middle power. A South Korea than gets along better with the US and Japan and sees its interests more aligned with these two great powers is clearly good for Australia and for Australia-Korea relations.