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Ahead of first Quad summit, South Korea shows interest in joining the grouping

Ahead of first Quad summit, South Korea shows interest in joining the grouping

The first summit of the Quad grouping on Friday appears to have generated a snowballing effect, with South Korea, showing sign of dropping its reluctance to join the quartet of India, Japan, United States and Australia, fearing retaliation from China.

The Republic of Korea’s Yonhap news agency is reporting that Seoul maybe considering joining the Quad it  had previously shunned.

However, the South Koreans, nimbly sidestepping China, are couching their possible and major foreign shift to their concerns about North Korea, their arch-foe.

"Seoul is thus trying to coordinate and influence the Biden administration's North Korea policy review process. South Korea is aware that the new administration has a host of domestic and foreign policy priorities more important to Washington than North Korea," Hwang Ji-hwan, the international relations professor from the University of Seoul said in an op-ed published by US magazine The Hill.

The article pointed out that Seoul was "even pondering" whether to join the so-called Quad Plus to show its commitment to the US-South Korea alliance and "indirectly, influence Biden's North Korea policy."

Also read: Quad summit likely to give big push to India-made vaccines in war on Covid-19

"South Korea had no incentive to join an anti-China quad. But the Biden administration wants to shift the Quad toward a group of like-minded countries," the article said.

The article precedes Friday’s meeting where Quad is likely to morph into a grouping where partnering countries not only work together to keep peace in the Indo-Pacific, but also other domains including geo-economics and health.

The Ministry of External Affairs on Tuesday night formally announced that PM Modi will participate with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and US President Joe Biden in the “first Leaders’ Summit of the Quadrilateral Framework, being held virtually.”

Besides discussing regional and global issues of shared interest, the leaders will “exchange views on practical areas of cooperation towards maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific”.

Significantly, the Leaders’ dialogue will go beyond security issues and discuss establishment of new supply chains—an issue that was highlighted during the Covid-19 pandemic after the world realised the dangers of critical overdependence on China.

Also read: Major geopolitical development if India aligns more closely with Quad grouping: US

The Quad summit will be an opportunity to exchange views on “contemporary challenges such as resilient supply chains, emerging and critical technologies, maritime security, and climate change,” the statement added.

Supplies of Covid-19 vaccines in the Indo-Pacific will be another top priority during the summit. The leaders will also review efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and “explore opportunities for collaboration in ensuring safe, equitable and affordable vaccines in the Indo-Pacific region,” the statement said without giving details.