Usually, when the news mentions anything about China dealing with Korea, it’s the North that tends to get brought up. Now, it looks like South Korea and China may be strengthening their ties in the near future. This new cooperation has the potential to create some very interesting effects on the balance of power within the East Asian region.
For one, North Korea will not be happy if their long-time ally of China decides to shift its focus to the southern neighbor. China, if its economic interests lie in the South, will be forced to make decisions that conflict with either one half of the peninsula or the other. Given the DPRK’s track record of being unreliable trade partners and slightly psychotic leaders on the international scene, China may finally decide that doing business with the South is just the smarter thing to do.
From the South Korean perspective, this gives them more military security. Their regular course of action was to rely upon Japan and the West for their military support. Since China is becoming steadily more powerful, it makes sense to change sides to a country that is not only closer but more economically sound than others in the region. Japan and China have no surplus of love for each other and this decision may cause a bit of tension between the South Korean and Japanese governments.
Though North Korea may not be happy about the potential military consequences of a South Korean-Chinese alliance, those in the South see it as a prime opportunity. Both conservative and liberal factions within the South Korean government recognize the inherit potential of using China against the threat of North Korean violence. They can either be used diplomatically to forge better ties with the North or defensively, threatening serious action should the DPRK decide to go a violent route. Either way, the advantage will go to the South and the North will be forced to accept whatever decisions China makes, being that the only other choice is complete isolationism.
The political advantages for South Korea are numerous and the potential economic boon for China will keep them interested. What remains to be seen is how China will handle North Korea in the future. If the DPRK’s only ally begins to fade away, how will they react? What is more important to the Chinese government, a good trade arrangement with the South or maintaining some degree of stability in the North?