South Korean and U.S. diplomats held talks over Washington's Indo-Pacific strategy on Friday, drawing fresh attention to whether Seoul will join the new geopolitical initiative seen as targeting an assertive China.
Seoul's foreign ministry said the meeting was attended by its North American Affairs Bureau chief, Kim Tae-jin, as well as U.S.Deputy Assistant Secretary Walter Douglas and other officials.
During the talks, the two sides also exchanged views about Seoul's New Southern Policy designed to boost relations with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, an increasingly crucial partner for trade, investment and diplomacy.
"While noting the mutually complementary nature of the New Southern Policy and the Indo-Pacific Strategy, which pursue openness, inclusiveness and transparency, the two sides shared the view that they will make continued efforts to find common ground in their policies so as to ensure the two countries' endeavors will yield the synergic effect, through which the two sides can expand the boundaries of their cooperation," the ministry said in a press release.
Observers suspect that the strategy, aimed at securing a "free and open" Indo-Pacific region, is designed to counter Beijing's "One Belt One Road" initiative, a grand geopolitical strategy to connect China with Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Europe and even Africa through "land and maritime silk roads."
Seoul initially showed apparent reservations over whether to join the strategy amid its efforts to enhance relations with Beijing, a crucial partner for trade, tourism and the campaign to pressure Pyongyang to renounce its nuclear and missile programs.