Considering the ROK's regional cooperation with the U.S., mutual solidarity with ASEAN countries, and the SLOC security in the South China Sea, the ROK will support U.S. diplomatic efforts to bolster international norms in the South China Sea. Nevertheless, the ROK might be cautious about its full-blown or military support to the U.S., which could result in China's diplomatic protests and economic reprisals. In this regard, the ROK might prefer to participate in a joint statement through a NATO or UN-level entity rather than through the Quad-Plus that entails a significant risk of Chinese retaliation against regional neighbors. At the same time, the ROK will likely enhance its ODA to ASEAN countries after the gray zone crisis and strengthen its maritime security cooperation with the Philippines but is unlikely to participate in a U.S.-led group sail related to freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.
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Mr. Choong-Koo Lee is an INSS Visiting Scholar from KIDA. The views expressed are the authors own and do not reflect those of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.