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Korea: Improved South Korean-Chinese Relations -- Motives And Implications

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Publication Date: July 1997

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: 97-681

Topic: International relations (Diplomacy)

Coverage: Korea (South) China


Chinese and South Korean leaders have markedly improved their bilateral ties since they established official diplomatic relations in 1992. There have been repeated summit meetings and China is now South Korea's third largest trading partner and the main recipient of South Korean foreign investment. Consultations in Seoul and Beijing indicate that Chinese and South Korean motives center on seeking economic benefit, enhancing their respective interests and influence on the Korean peninsula, and broadening foreign policy options that relate to the United States. In general, the recent improvement is compatible with important U.S. policy concerns about stability in the Korean peninsula. Potential complications for U.S. relations with South Korea could arise if Sino-U.S. tensions in Asia rose markedly or if South Korean leaders endeavored to use burgeoning relations with China as an indirect source of leverage in the sometimes difficult South Korean interaction with the United States over trade, burdensharing and other issues. For the time being, at least, those complications are held in check by an overriding Chinese and South Korean concern to work closely with the United States to deal cooperatively with the deteriorating situation in North Korea.