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Discuss and Analyse South Korea's Maritime Interest and Strategy.

Factors Stimulating the Growth of South Korean Maritime Policy

Few individuals refute that security is a significant challenge which faces humanity whether, international, national or individual ranks. National security is the most important thing especially for those countries which dominate numerous conditions which determine their coexistence with others. The economic and military actions in different pursuit can lead to war and economic dislocation to the neighboring countries. However, as time has evolved, many things have changed, and states have increased their levels of cooperation hence reducing tension among citizens. But even if confrontations have diminished, security problem persists together with the fears and uncertainties generated by security problems.

A country like South Korea has heartened the creation of more independent, far-reaching and a stronger navy to increase security at sea. For the past few years, the United States of America has provided maritime security to South Korea and South Korea is trying to change so that it can offer its protection. The country has a growing ability and desire to operate beyond its close coastal waters without relying on the United States. The Japanese colonised South Korea in 1945 and this lead to division among its citizens. Its primary interest is to reunite so that it can regain the lost unity during the period of colonisation. South Koreas most significant threat is North Korea’s military aggression which threatens its peace. It, therefore, became practical for South Korea to address this issue of security threats. In this paper, I will give more details about South Korean security and other information which is essential. The article will also provide more and detailed information on the strategy and interest of South Korea’s maritime.

There are three factors which stimulate the growth of South Korean maritime policy which includes; development of East Asia as one of the vast naval spheres, close relationship with the United States naval which include the joint performance of military exercises and the threat from its neighbour which is North Korea.2 The South Korean government must protect its commercial securities abroad, territorial sovereignty and also it's surrounding.

The South Korean state is an island which is surrounded by two major powers including Japan and China.3 The North Korean president has an aim of maintaining independence from Japan and China by developing a multidimensional strategy.4 The first strategy is to expand its ties with these developed neighbours so that it can become politically cooperative and also gain economic competitiveness. With these ties, South Korea can achieve its goal which is to become the best in the regions maritime sphere as a shipbuilding and a financial centre besides becoming the transhipment anchor.5 South Korea has tried to become the best foundation in its trade flows even if it still competes with the other economic players in the region. South Korean president wishes to turn its utmost geographical weakness which refers to its awkward location between fundamentally competitive, massive powers into its benefit. It can do so by acting as the leading economic intermediary which binds the region in unison.6

South Korea's Surrounding Powers

Such an excellent strategy can help the country to acquire another maritime objective which is to ensure the flow of raw materials and resources from other nations to its factories and ports. The nation must have strong naval security to protect its resources so that it can import all raw materials to fuel its industries. But building such a force requires a lot of money and time even when a political vacuum exists. South Korea is located in a sphere which is highly aggressive, and its competitors have more extensive global influence, a higher budget and great naval capabilities when compared to itself. The president, therefore, has to come up with a more varied and subtle maritime strategy which is better than of its powerful neighbours.

South Korea has one of the most considerable defence force following other countries such as North Korea, United States, India, China, and Russia.7 The South Korean military defence has grown faster to face the progressive actions of its main threat (North Korea). South Korea is a significant security and defence partner of the U.S. in the Asian region. The United States have created recreational centres, medical, schools and also constructed houses in South Korea which increases the ties between the two countries. U.S. is one of the greatest military allies of South Korea because it has large troops in this country. The forces help in deterring any aggression which originates from North Korea. Most of the weapons such as missiles which are used by the Republic of Korea come from the U.S.

However, the alliances with America are sometimes subject to external crises, political whims from inside the country, or even foreign military interventions. The only way to protect the nation against these contingencies is developing its security force. South Korea will require a sizeable naval force because water surrounds it. But the U.S, dominance in the area and the surrounding superpowers hinder South Korea from projecting such power. The nation must be ready in case of any diplomacy, possibility or military issues which may arise.

China is one of the largest ally and trade partner of South Korea. But China does not take the relationship between the U.S. and South Korea positively. It means that at some point South Korea has to manage the threat from China and North Korea. South Korea would like to prevent anything that destabilizes its relationship with its most significant menace .8 Pyongyang postures a considerable danger to the nation’s maritime safety because North Korea can strike in many regions along the coast of South Korea or even placing mines along South Korean primary sea-lanes. Pyongyang threat enables Seoul to validate its constant naval buildup as one of the processes for defense. Navy in South Korea is deployed to defend it against its paramount threat which is North Korea. South Korean navy has considerably developed its capabilities, experience, and littoral in dissuading North Korean minelayers, submarines and missile boats. South Koran navy is always alert to deter any attempts by North Korea to insert its special forces to the country using midget submarines or small landing crafts.

South Korea's Maritime Objectives

Different statistics show that North Korea produces nuclear weapons despite efforts by the United States to stop atomic production. It is believed that North Korea can hit its neighbouring countries like South Korea and Japan with these nuclear weapons. North Korea also has a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) which can knock out countries such as the U.S. North Korea is a real threat to South Korea because it has heavy weapons that can destroy South Korea within a very little time. North Korea has conducted about four tests for nuclear weapons and has also fired over 90 missiles. North Korea and South Korea have different military strengths; for instance, North Korea has ten atomic warheads while South Korea has none. North Korea has a total naval force of 525, 75 submarines, 349 fighter craft, 154 attack aircraft, 6000 tanks, and 1190000 active personnel. On the other hand, South Korea has a naval force of 151, 15 submarines, 151 fighter craft, 0 attack crafts, 2446 tanks, and 625000 active military personnel. North Korea has more military assets than South Korea which makes it a significant threat to South Korea. To counter this threat, South Korea has done more to improve its navy so that it can be able to face North Korea. South Korea has improved its military assets by developing other assets such as mine warfare vessels, Pohang Corvettes, destroyers, Incheon, submarines and many others. With such an improvement, South Korea can be able to face North Korea without the fear of losing.

Sea power refers to the naval strength of a country or how a nation spreads its military force to the sea. For many years, South Korea has created a navy that can even go beyond the peninsula. South Korea has continuously improved its navy to make sure that it protects its international maritime commons.9 The navy can also provide the needed security to make the global environment conducive. For every country, there must be a grand strategy. 10

Countries like South Korea has a geographical location that limits its soft and hard power and also the division of the Korean peninsula creates difficulties for the state when trying to make feasible and practical grand strategy.11 Such challenges make it challenging for the nation to implement an ambitious plan. Some countries also find it difficult to achieve their approach because of inability in predicting circumstances or events, the shoddy reasoning of ideologies, intellectuals, and psychological reasons. However, even if such challenges exist, South Korea must continue pursuing its grand strategy so that it can live peacefully in the future and now. Its gland strategy encompasses the strengthening of maritime defence, creating a friendship with America, Increase its relationship with China, and unifying the Korean peninsula.

South Korea's Military Defence

South Korea finds it challenging to place itself between China, Russia, U.S. and Japan.13 It is essential to review the things which affect security and peace in the Northern part of Asia to understand the South Korean grand strategy; South Korea is one of the largest importers of defence technology and equipment.14 Most of the investments in military technologies and equipment’s and mostly from the United States assist the country in facing external threats and especially from North Korea.15 South Korea has continued to expand its military power which requires foreign contractors or suppliers which enhances the transfer of technology. South Korea has therefore secured essential data on the significant security primes in the world and consequently leveraged it at the export market and home.16The country has a long history of building ships, and this contributes significantly to the expansion of the South Korean navy.17 Latest developments on shipping industries including equipment such as assault ships and guided missile destroyers show that the military strength has improved dramatically to face any possible threats. In this country, it is evident that the naval force depends on the state's strategies and doctrines.

The relationship between South Korea begun a long time ago in a bid to face North Korea which is a communist.18These ties have expanded since then, and this has improved cooperation on international issues and tighter trade bonds between the two countries. The two countries have signed different trade contracts which have helped in the peaceful coexistence of the two states. South Korea has continued to improve the friendship by allowing free trade between the two countries. The two countries have agreed to cut on trade tariffs which may increase the level of exports and imports. The United States Army and the South Korean army leaders have met in different occasions to discuss their alliance due to the increasing threats by North Korea.19 The South Korean president has emphasized on building a healthy relationship with the United States to increase the military force in the country.20 South Korea would, therefore, like to expand its friendship with the United States so that it be able to face North America. In addition to this, South Korea and the U.S. created a combined military referred to as the Combined Force Command which is led by both Korean and United States armies. The primary aim of this army prevent the ICBM launch by North Korea and to monitor North Koreas denuclearization process.

North Korea's Threat to South Korea

South Korea and China have displayed interest to improve their relations through endless negotiations. Like South Korea and the US, China also would also like to denuclearise North Korea. South Korea would want to increase its relationship with China but still maintain its incongruous defence priorities. The normalisation of South Korea has led to massive trade and economic benefits to China and South Korea. For more than a decade, the relationship between Seoul and Beijing has never given South Korea the required power to deal with its opponents (North Korea). It would be challenging to denuclearise North Korea if the two countries do not work together in unison. Leaders from the two countries have promised to restore cooperation and exchange in all sectors to improve ties between the two countries.  South Korea and China share deep historical and cultural relations, and they also have a direct geographic immediacy. The relationship between the two countries will also enhance trade and significant economic collaboration. It is evident that signing agreements between the two nations and organising summits will help South Korea to increase its ties with China.

The Korean peninsula has held several meetings to unify the region and promote denuclearization of the area. One of the summits held on 2018 between South Korean and North Korean presidents was aimed at the denuclearising Korean peninsula and bringing an end to the nuclear armaments agendas in North Korea.24 The summit focused on the maintenance of peace in Korea, improving the relationship between Korean countries then denuclearising the Korean peninsula. Presidents from the two countries came up with several pledges during the summit regarding peace and cooperation. The North Korean president did not entirely agree to remove all nuclear weapons even if the main agenda of the meeting was to denuclearise the Korean peninsula. The primary aim of this summit was not to improve economic relations between the two nations, but it was to reduce military tensions and enhance peaceful coexistence of people in the Korean peninsula.25 But when North Korea resolves the issues to do with nuclear weapons, the two countries can start doing trade together as partners. The two Korean leaders Moon and Kim will pursue talks with China and the U.S. to bring an end to the war in Korea formally. The effect of US-NK summit on June 2018 at Capella resort Singapore

The historic conference between Kim and Trump was held in Singapore to discuss pace issues and denuclearization of North Korea.  During the summit, North Korea agreed to ample denuclearisation of his region and the United States promised to provide unstipulated security guarantees.26Following this agreement, The U.S. president promised that it would stop the joint South Korea and United States military exercises which is greatly detested by North Korea.  The two countries wanted to have a peaceful future, but at some point, they never came up with a conclusion on what each country should start doing. Trump stated that they held a discussion on human rights and Kim had accepted to destroy some nuclear testing sites. During this summit, Kim suggested that the world will see this change because it was one of the most critical meetings in History. There a possible creation of friendship between the two countries and the summit went on very well which was something unexpected. Trump said that Kim would start denuclearising immediately after the conference so that the world can live peacefully.  The two presidents promised to create individual bonds, and even the American president vowed to visit North Korea at the appropriate time. The two countries have not yet implemented the agreement, but the U.S. promised to guarantee North Korean security if the president accepts to denuclearise.

South Korea's Maritime Grand Strategy

After the meeting, satellites indicate that Kim has made many improvements at the nuclear facility to enhance its infrastructure. But some monitors reported that Kim has only made small improvements since the meeting which includes two roof buildings. Kim has also increased the production of nuclear weapons in different secret locations after the meeting. However, reports argue that the process started long before the summit took place. The government has accused North Korea of violating the agreements by flouting financial sanctions and transferring energy at sea. After the summit, different countries expressed their hope and praised the two countries for a possible achievement of peace. Many people thought that the meeting was critical and it could help in denuclearising the Korean peninsula. Trump believes that Kim will stop the nuclear tests and also suspend the launches of ICBM. The meeting was therefore crucial, and it received a lot of appreciation from other countries.

Satellites show that there is no dismantlement which has taken place at Sohae.27 The satellites show that the country stopped its activities of dismantling the nuclear tests in the early August. The United States secretary held that dismantling of the nuclear equipment’s at Sohae was in line with the agreement between Trump and Kim.28 Other reports from the North indicate that the progress in dismantling the structure was made between July and August, but some previously removed structures remain piled in the ground. It is said that the building appears stalled and it is not clear if the structure is undergoing further modification or dismantlement.26 There are still doubts on whether Kim is willing to give up the weapons it has as agreed during the UK-NK summit.

South Korea hopes to improve its friendship with the United States, strengthen its naval defense, and improve its ties with China and to unify the Korean peninsula.27 Through its relations with America, South Korea can create a more independent, a far-reaching and a stronger navy. South Korea’s most significant threat is North Korea and unifying the region can remove the danger and make the Korean peninsula more productive. South Korea is a country which is surrounded by water and improving the maritime security is the most crucial aspect for the state to protect its people. The South Korean strategy should stay as usual because it is through the plan that South Korea can live without tensions and improve its relationship with other countries.29


South Korea is a great country, but its neighbor threatens its survival by creating nuclear weapons which are very dangerous. But through its maritime strategy, South Korea can reunite the Korean Peninsula to end the existing tensions and even generate room for business. South Korea is one of the countries which invest heavily in military equipment in the world. It spends so much on these equipment’s so that it can be able to protect itself from North Korea.

According to this paper, it is evident that the positive relationship between the United States and North Korea does not guarantee the unification and denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Sources still indicate that North Korea has more nuclear facilities besides the efforts made to prevent the creation of atomic weapons. South Korea will have to strengthen its relationship with China and the U.S. to maintain its maritime security because North Korea will remain to be its most significant threat.

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martin, george. 2018. "Satellite Images Show North Korea Has Stopped Nuclear Sites Demolition". Mail Online.

Lee, Cheonjae, and Walter Timo de Vries. "A divided nation: Rethinking and rescaling land tenure in the Korean (re-) unification." Land Use Policy 75 (2018): 127-136.

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