Nikkei Asia | 이신화 북한인권국제협력대사, 고려대학교 정치외교학과 교수, 고려대학교 평화와 민주주의 연구소 소장, 전 유엔사무총장 평화구축기금 (PBF) 자문위원, 전 동아시아비전그룹(EAVG) 의장자문관
TOKYO -- U.S. foreign policy is shifting from multilateralism to minilateralism, as Washington teams up with a handful of like-minded countries to pursue common agendas in groupings such as the Quad, AUKUS, Five Eyes and the D-10 Strategy Forum.
China, meanwhile, is calling for more comprehensive multilateralism, using existing frameworks such as the United Nations and the Group of 20.
Ironically, China's version is closer to the original concept of multilateralism that the U.S. pursued after World War II, according to Lee Shin-wha, an international relations professor at Korea University and the Yoon Suk-yeol administration's ambassador-at-large on North Korean human rights issues. Lee has been a member of the Trilateral Commission, the influential but secretive Track 2 forum, for 20 years.
But both are distorted, she told Nikkei Asia in a recent interview. The exclusive nature of the Biden administration's minilateralism risks pushing away other countries. China, meanwhile, only uses multilateralism to advance its own interests, she added. When the situation turns against it, Beijing is quick to dismiss multilateralism, such as when the international arbitration tribunal rejected China's expansive South China Sea maritime claims.
Why is multilateralism important?
Lee says that middle powers in the Indo-Pacific, like Japan, South Korea, Australia and India, hold the casting vote on the direction of U.S.-China rivalry -- be it more belligerence or greater cooperation.
Edited excerpts of the interview follow.