South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol (left) and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speak on the sidelines at the UN General Assembly in September 2022. Photo: Japanese Cabinet Public Relations Office

The regime in Pyongyang has been conducting high-intensity military exercises recently. Diplomatic commentators see this as evidence of an alliance with Russia and China. However, if we look at the trends of South Korea’s military development, we can have a different analysis.

South Korea’s apparent willingness to develop its military arsenal may worry the North Korean authorities.

The image of the South for the authorities in Pyongyang is rather simplistic: It sees the South is a vassal of the United States. Yet South Korea’s determination to develop its military is for security and economic purposes. It is intended to bring more weight to the table in inter-Korean negotiations.

President Yoon Suk-yeol declared recently that South Korea’s goal is the denuclearization of the North. Military development is therefore a way for the South to secure the interests of its people amid the change of global hegemony.

South Korea’s rapprochement with China, particularly on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of their diplomatic relationship in August, is in line with Japan’s movement to develop its relations with China (continuing the dynamic of the late Shinzo Abe).

Non-Westerners are afraid that with the possible rise in power of the Sino-Russian monetary alliance, the world economy, including in the West, will be threatened. To guarantee their interests and the proper functioning of their markets, countries are therefore moving closer to China.

The Japanese-Korean rapprochement is a testament to the South’s concern about the global context of tension. South Korea, like many other countries, must take action in the face of the upcoming upheaval in the balance of power, because the interests of the population are vital.

In political science and international relations we speak of rotten politics when the vital interests of a population are not guaranteed. Korea seems to have understood this, one could also produce a rather long analysis on the deep purpose of Japan and its inspirations.

More than anything else today, Asia is stepping up to the plate to face its challenges. Many Western countries would like to do the same but are held back by the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

William Favre is a researcher focusing on the Korean Peninsula. He is a graduate of Seoul National University in international relations.