June 25, 2024

During recent talks between the foreign and defence ministers from South Korea and Australia, Seoul acknowledged publicly for the first time that it was actively seeking to join the AUKUS military alliance, currently comprised of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The move is part of US-led plans throughout the Indo-Pacific region for war against China.

From the left, Penny Wong, ChoTae-yul, Richard Marles and Shin Won-sik for the 2+2 Ministerial Meeting in Melbourne, May 1, 2024 [Photo: X/Twitter/ @SenatorWong]

South Korean Foreign Minister Jo Tae-yeol and Defense Minister Sin Won-sik met with their respective counterparts Penny Wong and Richard Marles in Melbourne, Australia on May 1 for the sixth iteration of the “two plus two” talks between the two US allies. A joint statement released afterwards stated, “The ROK (Republic of Korea) welcomed that the AUKUS countries are considering cooperation with additional partners on Pillar ll advanced capability projects.”

Sin made clear after the talks that this meant the possibility of Seoul joining the anti-China alliance, saying, “During today’s meeting, we also discussed the possibility of partnering with AUKUS Pillar II.” Not stopping there, the joint statement also noted that the South Korean ministers “expressed the ROK’s interest in the Quad.” The Quad, or Quadrilateral Security Dialogue comprised of the US, Australia, Japan and India, is a quasi-military alliance also meant to surround and threaten China.

Indicating that cooperation with other countries will expand, Marles stated, “As AUKUS Pillar II develops, there will be opportunities in the future, and we’re seeing that play out in relation to Japan as well.” The announcement comes after the three AUKUS countries announced last month in connection with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to Washington that they were planning to bring Japan into Pillar II as well.

AUKUS was launched in September 2021 and includes two “pillars.” The first involves the transfer of nuclear-powered submarines to Australia while the second deals with military technology sharing, cooperation and development. While Pillar I is currently not open to additional members, Pillar II is provocatively being expanded to incorporate other allies, such as South Korea and Japan, but potentially New Zealand and Canada as well.

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