At ARPN, we have long highlighted the important but oft-overlooked nexus between resource policy and geopolitics. The latest case in point is South Korea, which, as ARPN President Daniel McGroarty points out in his latest opinion piece for Fox News, is navigating murky waters “talking sunshine and Rare Earths as North Korean war clouds gather.”
For decades, South Korea has acquired strategic mineral resources it requires for its domestic high-tech industries from its sworn enemy North Korea via the South Korean state owned resource corporation KORES, which also happens to be 50% owner of North Korea’s largest graphite mine.
Rumored nuclear warhead testing on behalf of the Pyongyang regime has triggered an “unusual degree of collaboration” between U.S. and Chinese leaders to discuss Kim Jong Un’s brinkmanship. And while South Korea did shut down the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the wake of its Northern neighbors’ 2016 nuclear tests, now, with South Korea’s presidential election to be held on May 9, leaders are not only mulling the prospect of re-opening said complex, but to even expand it.
The question is “why South Korea sees North Korea – its sworn enemy – as a source for those materials, in the face of strong evidence that the revenue generated from those purchases is funneled into financing North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.”
“South Korea can’t have it both ways. It can’t claim be under an existential threat from Kim Jong Un, only to reopen a hard currency spigot that will keep Kim and his cronies in power, and fund a nuclear weapons capability that will – by 2020, some national security experts say — threaten the continental United States itself.”
McGroarty argues that South Korea would be well-advised to begin working with American suppliers to develop new non-North Korean sources of critical metals and minerals. After all, he says:
“With U.S. naval strike groups sent North Korea’s way and calls for the expedited deployment of THAAD missile defense systems ringing out, one thing is certain: It’s going to be very hard to convince the American people to go to the brink with a nuclear-armed madman on behalf of an ally who has helped bankroll the nuclear weapons arrayed against it.”
Resource policy does not occur in a vacuum — and that’s a message that should not just resonate with South Korea’s political leaders, but U.S. policy makers as well.
Read the full opinion piece on Fox News here.