|Edgard Kagan, a senior director on the National Security Council of the White House, speaks during an online forum, 'The Quad and Korea,' held by the Chey Institute for Advanced Studies, Friday. Captured from live streaming|
By Nam Hyun-woo
Edgard Kagan, a senior director on the National Security Council of the White House, said the U.S.-created Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) is neither a "security alliance," nor an "Asian NATO," defying the wide held view here that it is a platform designed to contain China.
Kagan made the remarks in an online forum, "The Quad and Korea," hosted by the Chey Institute for Advanced Studies, which was founded in 2018 in commemoration of the late SK Group Chairman Chey Jong-hyon.
During a keynote speech, Kagan said the Quad was an "open architecture to encourage others to participate and work together to solve real problems, threats and challenges," rather than being a formal organization having a governing function.
"The Quad is a valuable framework addressing common concerns. What it's not is a security alliance, Asian NATO or a formal institution," he said.
First formed in 2007 and revived in 2017, the Quad is an informal forum comprised of Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. It is "believed" by some Asian watchers to be designed to counter China, due largely to the members' joint statement that the Quad pursues "a free and open Indo-Pacific" and "rules-based order in the East and South China Seas."
While it is gaining greater attention regarding its expansion amid the Joe Biden administration's strategy to contain China, Korea has not made a decision on whether to join, largely believed to be driven by Beijing being Seoul's largest trading partner.
Despite these views, Kagan said the Quad was focusing on "common challenges," such as climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and technology.
To the question of whether or not those issues could be dealt with efficiently without China's participation in the Quad, Kagan said it is very clear that "we need to cooperate with other countries and there's opportunities to work together" even though which countries participate is up to the existing four countries in the Quad.
Though he stressed that while the Quad is an open architecture, Kagan expressed a negative view on China's participation because the Quad is made up of countries supporting the idea of a "free and open Indo-Pacific" that is "free of economic retaliation."
"It's hard to imagine that countries participating in Quad activities didn't sign on to the idea of a free and open Indo-Pacific, free of coercion, free of intimidation, free of economic retaliation or threats," he said. "For now, obviously universal countries that share and demonstrate those values is finite and that's where any initial expansion and cooperation will come from."
Korea has suffered from retaliatory measures imposed by Beijing after Seoul agreed to the deployment of a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system on Korean soil. As China's actions dealt a heavy blow to Korea's economic growth, the government remains reluctant to make any decision on joining the Quad for fear of further retaliation.
Joseph Yun, a former U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, also said during the forum that "Korea's position is very well understood among U.S. policy makers, and as such nobody has invited Korea to join the Quad."
"This is not about choosing between the U.S. and China. And Korea has made that choice already," Yun said, citing the fact that U.S. troops are stationed in Korea. "Korea should look at this broadly as an opportunity, and there could be other benefits and positive aspects to it."
The Quad issue will remain a conundrum for the Moon Jae-in administration with the president having a summit with Biden in Washington, May 21. Cheong Wa Dae is not revealing what will be discussed at their meeting with one senior official saying, "It is not true that the Quad issue is on the agenda."