South Korea tends to keep a low profile internationally, seemingly content to nurture their chaebols and leave high-politics to other powers.
North Korea announced on Sunday that it had tested a new high-thrust engine considered applicable to its ballistic missiles. Moon Jae-in, the front-runner in South Korea's presidential election, which will be held on May 9th, has said he will review the deployment, but has been careful not to promise to reverse it.
Chinese travel agencies have suspended the sale of group tours to South Korea. The arrival of the first piece of the controversial THAAD missile system to South Korea shows that the Trump administration remains adamant on his position to boost its defense. Additionally, the Chinese government and media started a campaign in February to boycott South Korean goods and tourism, specifically Lotte Holdings which hasn't gone down well. (North Korea now lists Russia as its closest ally.) In January, Russia and North Korea agreed to expand railway links to increase the flow of Siberian oil into North Korea, which would process it at chemical plants for export.
But it is hardly a one-sided relationship.
It is more likely, however, that China, always resentful of the presence of American troops so near its borders, sees an opportunity to use THAAD to weaken America's alliance with South Korea. Beyond the affected sectors, some 25% of South Korea's exports go to China, so there is much at stake. We are exploring a new range of security and diplomatic measures.
"The secretary said in private meetings that retaliating against the defensive system, which the Chinese had done, was something that was uncalled for, and something of growing concern for us", the USA diplomat said Wednesday. He further angered China's leaders with an unprecedented call to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, then broached ending the longstanding US policy of "One China". The Korea Security Report, compiled by the Maeil Business Newspaper and Sejong Institute with the help of over 40 experts on North Korea, security, political, economic, and worldwide affairs, set the stage for public debate on the nuclear option for South Korea that has always been a tabooed idea. Experts in Korea seem to agree with these assessments. China's leaders know that realising their global leadership ambitions requires them to adhere to global norms and accept greater responsibility.
The Pentagon and the South Korean military are closely monitoring the situation. North Korea is taking liberties with the worldwide community and UNSC has not been tough enough. Over the past week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited South Korea, Japan and China and stressed "a different approach" on tackling Pyongyang, saying that "all options were on the table" including possible military action.
This view fails to account for differences in intent.
Kim Jong-un risks placing even more pressure on already strained relations with UN countries, as the Seoul official refused to rule out whether there were fresh signs the hermit nation was ready to carry out another nuclear blast. In return, North Korea would provide Russian Federation with 10,000 cheap guest workers.
What has not been tried on North Korea is the full-court economic press that was applied to Iran. Since the conflict, Washington has maintained a military treaty with Seoul. If world powers continue to delay tackling the North Korea threat, they will soon be exposed. In 2014, former President Barack Obama concluded that traditional antimissile systems, which failed more often than they succeeded under test conditions, were not the answer to protecting the US.