|U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Philip Goldberg speaks during a special lecture session hosted by Chey Institute for Advanced Studies, Monday. Captured from livestream|
Chey Institute chief floats idea of S. Korea, US jointly producing nuclear-powered subs
By Nam Hyun-woo
The recent trilateral summit between South Korea, the United States and Japan at Camp David was not aimed at containing China's assertions in the Indo-Pacific region, according to U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Philip Goldberg, Monday, who said it is rather a recognition that there are "important issues involved for peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region."
Goldberg made those remarks online during a special lecture session hosted by the Chey Institute for Advanced Studies, a private think tank established by Chey Jong-hyun, who is a former SK Group chairman.
"The Camp David Summit does not confront China," Goldberg said. "It expands this relationship into new areas trilaterally that are unique and that are pertinent and valuable for democratic like-minded countries. That doesn't mean that we're turning a blind eye on some of the issues related to China."
The Camp David summit took place on Aug. 18, during which President Yoon Suk Yeol, U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida signed three documents elevating the three countries' partnerships into a quasi-alliance across security, industry and other fields of cooperation.
While asserting the three countries' partnerships across all fields of cooperation, the summit noted their resolute objections to attempts to change the status quo by force, China's territorial claims in the South China Sea and their support for peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
Though the agreements were assumed as the three countries' proclamation against China's assertion in the Indo-Pacific region, Biden said during the summit that they were not targeting Beijing, but rather "deepening cooperation across the entire range of issues."
"That's not something that makes this particular set of agreements aimed at China," Goldberg said. "But it's a recognition that there are very important issues involved for peace and security in the Indo-Pacific, ones that we share together, and need to confront together when needed, or at least to speak up about."
During his lecture, Goldberg stressed the trilateral summit is about the sustainability of the trilateral partnership, which was enabled by President Yoon's effort to mend Seoul's ties with Tokyo.
"These agreements are far-reaching, and they are endurable because they are so far-reaching," Goldberg said, citing the trilateral meetings between foreign ministers, national security advisers and industry ministers.
"Political changes may take place in one of the three capitals at some point, but we believe it's in the inherent interest of each of the three countries," he said. "The U.S.-Korea relationship, and ― maybe even more so, at this point, at least in the short term ― the trilateral relationship has enormous bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress. That's something too that can add to the durability of these agreements from our side."
During the lecture session, Chey Institute President Park In-kook floated the idea of Seoul and Washington jointly producing nuclear-powered submarines.
"The U.S. Jones Act currently prevents the production of naval ships outside American soil," Park said.
"This may have led to skyrocketing prices of submarines and naval shipbuilding. Now is the optimal time for the two allies to actively discuss cooperation on the issue of creating a consortium for nuclear-powered submarines with a view to utilizing Korean shipbuilding docks and experienced workforce at a reasonable price."
Under the act, the U.S. can build naval warships only in domestic shipyards, which affects the country's ability to expand its naval capabilities compared to China.
According to a U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence slide that was leaked online recently, Chinese shipyards have a capacity of about 23.2 million tons compared to less than 100,000 tons in the U.S., making Beijing's shipbuilding capacity more than 232 times greater than that of Washington.
Due to this, debates are ongoing over whether the U.S. should outsource its naval shipbuilding to friendly nations, namely South Korea and Japan, which also possess experienced shipbuilders.
Nuclear-powered submarines have become a subject of heated interest in South Korea as well, after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made it clear that securing a nuclear-propelled submarine, which can run without refueling for 20 years or even longer, is one of the objectives his military is pursuing, during Pyongyang's Sept. 9 founding anniversary.