On Thursday, South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk Yeol vowed to take a firmer stance on North Korea and rebuild Seoul’s military alliance with Washington.
South Koreans went to the polls and elected Yoon on Wednesday, and he will take office in May. During his campaign, Yoon accused outgoing President Moon Jae-in, a strong proponent of peaceful reunification with North Korea, of being “submissive” to Pyongyang and Beijing.
As the US has become more focused on countering China, Washington is looking to Seoul to help. Yoon is expected to take a harder line on China and signaled that he was ready to be involved in the US’s efforts to strengthen alliances in the region as part of its strategy against Beijing.
“I’ll rebuild the South Korea-US alliance. I’ll [make] it a strategic comprehensive alliance while sharing key values like liberal democracy, a market economy, and human rights,” Yoon said at a press conference.
“I’ll establish a strong military capacity to completely deter any provocation,” Yoon said. “I’ll firmly deal with illicit, unreasonable behavior by North Korea in a principled manner, though I’ll always leave open the door for South-North talks.”
So far, the Biden administration hasn’t done much to try to engage with North Korea. Biden officials say they’re ready for dialogue with Pyongyang but have made no offers for sanctions relief to get the North Koreans to come to the table and are now ramping up sanctions in response to recent missile tests.