Digital Policy East Asia Economy & Business Inclusive Growth Indo-Pacific International Markets Korea Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding Politics & Diplomacy Technology & Innovation Trade
Report September 17, 2021

Beyond the peninsula: Prospects for US-ROK regional cooperation in the Indo-Pacific

By Miyeon Oh

As the transformation of the Indo-Pacific continues to shape the global geopolitical and economic landscape, US engagement with allies and partners in the region is crucial. Southeast Asia in particular is becoming a region of strategic importance to the United States; it is an engine of world economic growth facing increasing Chinese political and economic influence. As rapid industrialization, urbanization, and digitization continue to transform the region, the United States is striving to strengthen its partnerships, working with its allies such as Australia, Japan, and the Republic of Korea (ROK) by accelerating and expanding existing engagement efforts. Advancing peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific remains a top priority for the Joseph Biden administration, as it was for the Donald Trump administration under the Indo-Pacific Strategy. The Biden administration has a strong commitment to resisting challenges to the free and open rules-based regional order, through collectively responding to challenges working together with its allies and partners that are free and democratic nations, including South Korea.

This report provides an interim evaluation of US-ROK cooperative efforts in the Indo-Pacific. First, it assesses where priorities converge and diverge between the Moon administration’s NSP and the Trump administration’s Indo- Pacific Strategy (IPS), as this has policy implications for the US-ROK collaboration under the Biden administration in terms of the joint regional engagement. It examines how the NSP’s pillars of prosperity, security, and people map onto those of the IPS, in order to explore how the Republic of Korea and the United States have approached cooperative efforts to date and to what extent those efforts have achieved their stated objectives or require further development. In pursuing this analysis, the report finds that the progress seen across a range of broad US-ROK cooperative efforts, outlined in joint government fact sheets released in 2019 and 2020, reflects a series of unique opportunities and challenges the two countries face in the region.

Asia Security Initiative

The Asia Security Initiative, housed within the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, fosters a trans-Atlantic-Pacific Community with a dual analytical approach grounded in key traditional and non-traditional security issues in order to develop new strategies and policies for the United States, its allies, and its partners.

Image: Using night lights imagery from Miguel Román, NASA GSFC. Source: