Around the world, governments are in for a broad recalculation of their foreign policy, as a new administration in the United States takes off under President Joe Biden.
Figuring out how to work with Washington for the next four years is of utmost importance for countries like South Korea, which, together with the U.S., face common security challenges including dealing with a nuclear North Korea.
However, the past four years of Donald Trump's America-first policy has tested the strength of Washington's ties with its long-standing major allies and trading partners including Seoul.
To get a glimpse of where the bilateral relationship is headed, there's no better person to turn to than His Excellency Dr. Ahn Ho-young, who was South Korea's Ambassador to the United States during the Obama and Trump administrations,.. from 2013 to 2017. He also served as South Korea's 1st Vice Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the European Union, and is currently President of the University of North Korean Studies.
Welcome, Ambassador. It's an honor to have you on our show.
Joe Biden was Vice President during your earlier years as Ambassador in Washington, D.C. during the Obama administration. But Obama's "rebalance to Asia" was criticized for being a passive policy that ended up enabling the rise of China and largely ignoring the North Korea nuclear issue. Meanwhile, Former President Donald Trump's focus was making allied nations pay up more, waging a trade war against Beijing, and playing golf with Shinzo Abe. None of these were positive developments for South Korea. What do you think Biden's style of diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific region will look like, based on your own knowledge of him? Are you optimistic about the future of Seoul-Washington ties?
You also worked with the Trump administration, at a time when tensions started flaring over the S. Korea-U.S. FTA and their shared defense costs. Some worry that Biden may retain some of Trump's protectionist policies and go tough on trade. What are your thoughts on this?
Seoul-Tokyo relations deteriorated dramatically throughout the Trump administration. The debate over historical disputes seems to have gone around in circles for years. Are you hopeful that Biden will give the two countries a nudge towards making amends?
While it's clear President Joe Biden has countless domestic issues to prioritize over foreign policy, we also know North Korea doesn't like to be forgotten. It held a massive military parade earlier this month showcasing a submarine-launched ballistic missile, calling it the world's most powerful weapon. Do you think this was just a warm-up for a bigger, attention-grabbing provocation? If so, would the return to its old tricks be wise in the new Biden era?
Tony Blinken, Wendy Sherman, Jake Sullivan, Kurt Campbell and Sam Power are people you know and have worked with back in Washington. Back then, they followed the Strategic Patience policy. Do you think their approach will be different now? How do you think they are going to handle the denuclearization issue and interact with the North Koreans?
Were you surprised that the Hanoi Talks broke down and that the Trump-Kim bromance lost its spark? How would you advise the new U.S. administration on making concrete progress with the North Koreans on denuclearization?
Trump's foreign policy was undoubtedly unorthodox, pulling out of multilateral institutions, and constantly invoicing allies while empowering leaders like Mr. Putin, Mr. Erdogan and the Saudi royal family. What impact has Mr. Trump's presidency had on America's global standing? Will it be easy for Joe Biden to put the U.S. "back at the head of the table" as he pledged to do?
You negotiated the terms of South Korea's accession to the OECD, and led the efforts to hold the G20 Summit in Seoul these were historic milestones in Korea's rise in the global community. Do you see middle powers like South Korea and European countries playing a bigger role in restoring multilateralism, and countering threats to peace and security?
Dr. Ahn Ho-young, who was South Korea's Ambassador to the United States during the Obama and Trump administrations,.. from 2013 to 2017, and current President of the University of North Korean Studies.
Thank you for being on our show. Happy New Year.