Press "Enter" to skip to content

South Korea confirms talks on AUKUS pact with US, UK, Australia

South Korea has held discussions about joining a part of the AUKUS defense deal between the U.S., United Kingdom and Australia, Defense Minister Shin Won-sik said on Wednesday, just weeks after the pact suggested it would consider including Japan.

Formed in 2021, AUKUS is a two-stage security pact to counteract China’s growing power in the Asia Pacific region.

While the first stage, to give Australia nuclear submarine technology is limited to the core trio, they have raised the possibility of other countries joining a second stage, or “Pillar 2,” that aims to share other military technology.

South Korea could contribute to that second stage with its defense, science and technological capabilities, Shin said at a news conference after a meeting between Australia and South Korea’s foreign and defense ministers in Melbourne.

“During today’s meeting we also discussed the possibility of partnering with AUKUS Pillar 2,” he said.

“We support AUKUS Pillar 2 activities and we do welcome that members are considering Korea as an AUKUS Pillar 2 partner.”

South Korea, with its close ties to the U.S. and world-leading defense industry, has long been speculated as a potential Pillar 2 partner along with Canada, New Zealand and Japan.

Less than a month ago the AUKUS partners announced they were considering working with Japan on specific Pillar 2 defense projects and would hold talks over its involvement this year.

“Korea is a country with deeply impressive technology where we do have shared values,” said Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles.

“As AUKUS Pillar 2 develops there will be opportunities in the future, and we’re seeing that play out in relation to Japan as well.”

China, a vocal critic of the pact, said in April that adding new members would destabilize the region.

Expanding the pact faces hurdles from strict U.S. restrictions on sharing technology, which Canberra and London worry could bog down the deal for all if new members are added too quickly.

However, the U.S. State Department on Tuesday unveiled a plan to relax those restrictions and make it easier to transfer military gear and sensitive technology to Britain and Australia.

New Zealand ‘long way’ from decision

Separately, New Zealand’s foreign minister said on Wednesday his government is continuing “information gathering discussions” on future cooperation with the AUKUS security pact but is “a long way” from being able to make a decision on this.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters said New Zealand must better understand the potential opportunities of cooperating with the pact on technologies, weigh up the economic and security benefits, and decide if it is in the national interest.

“The government is a long way from this point of being able to make such a decision,” he said in a speech to the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs in Wellington.

“But we should emphasize that it would be utterly irresponsible for any government of any stripe to not consider whether collaborating with like-minded partners on advances in technology is in our national interest.”

There is no suggestion that New Zealand, which has a long history of being nuclear-free, would join the first pillar of the AUKUS pact.

Peters said before New Zealand could look at participating in Pillar 2, those involved in AUKUS would need to want New Zealand to participate.

“That precondition has not yet been met,” he said.

New Zealand has become increasingly vocal about what it sees as growing security risks in the Pacific and more globally.

“Remorseless pressure is being exerted across it as beachheads are sought and influence peddled,” Peters said.

Domestic critics of joining AUKUS include former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who has warned it would undermine the country’s independent foreign policy. Others have questioned AUKUS’ aim of containing China and raised concern about its impact on New Zealand’s anti-nuclear status.

More from BusinessMore posts in Business »

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *