For years, the U.S.-Korea alliance has been taken for granted. But in this day and age, throw all caution out the window; we may be witnessing a new era in East Asia dynamics. With President Trump in office, the United States will take decidedly more isolationist stances in the future. That is, the Trump administration will focus on “America first” and may not exert its influence as much in other diplomatic spheres, especially the one in Eastern Asia.
In fact, during his campaign President Trump even suggested that South Korea and Japan develop its own nuclear weapons to counter the threat of North Korea in the region, upsetting decades of standard diplomacy in the region, and wants to pull troops out of Korean military bases.
What this means for Korea is that it needs to begin building its own resources and defenses. Years of American involvement in the Korean peninsula have not solved North Korea, but have at least boosted its Southern counterpart economically and technologically in ways that could give it a distinct advantage in any future regional struggles. With the US providing a shield behind which Korea has now become a major player on the global stage, it is time for the nation to become capable of defending its own borders rather than relying on a fickle, capricious superpower.
A major aspect of this diplomatic effort will be China, as the only way to truly neutralize North Korea’s nuclear threat without building up yet another nuclear stockpile is to strip the rogue nation of its closest allies. Part of this effort is again achieved by reducing ties with the United States. Of course, China will become the preeminent regional power–but this is unavoidable, given President Trump’s policies. What is left for Korea is to take advantage of that power vacuum and win over China as an ally against North Korea.
Once the United States is removed from the equation, there is little reason as to why China should continue to support Kim Jong-Un. Essentially, it’s a losing investment, and the buffer North Korea served would no longer be needed due to the South’s independence. With Japan already on board with the anti-Kim rhetoric, winning China over would isolate North Korea and discourage it from embarking on any rash wars.
Obviously, Korea is not in an ideal situation; the toddler has only now begun to walk on its own. However, amidst this chaos may be a great opportunity for the nation to finally take control of its destiny in the East Asian region and diminish the threat of North Korea for once and for all.