South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol wraps up his three-day stay in Madrid during which he attended a 30-membered military alliance summit - the first for a South Korean head of state.
Here, the president - now less than two months in office - warned the NATO members of the threat to universal values at a time of new conflict and competition, a reference to Russia's aggression in Ukraine and China's engagement with Russia.
"While there's no need to call out specific countries, we need to facilitate cooperation between countries based on shared values of freedom, human rights, and rule of law, and that's what Indo-Pacific nations and NATO nations should build together."
South Korea’s approach to NATO comes as the alliance is looking towards the Indo-Pacific, a new focus that Yoon's aides say the president welcomes.
In its new strategic concept unveiled Wednesday, NATO for the first time described China as a challenge to its "interests, security and values," as an economic and military power that remains "opaque about its strategy, intentions and military build-up."
Beijing's envoy in Seoul fumed over the western alliance's labeling of China as 'systemic challenge.'
"One of the goals we came to achieve at NATO this time is to establish a solidarity of values and norms. As the security situation of one region can spill over to the rest of the world, there is a clear need for countries around the globe to cooperate to together resolve an issue."
Experts agree that this reflects the Yoon administration's awareness of how the current security challenges the world is facing go far beyond the immediate challenges of North Korea as we continue to see a concerted attempt to undermine democratic values globally.
As South Korea is well placed to reaffirm the importance of the liberal democratic values on successes of its democratic governments, President Yoon's presence at NATO is both a symbolic and practical reaffirmation of the confirmation to those values.
16 diplomatic engagements, big and small, over the course of three days.
No immediate feat, if you ask.. BUT
"At the end of the day, I believe we've taken the right step forward in smoothly carrying out summit diplomacy for the next five years."
But this is just the beginning for President Yoon. Like his security advisor said, perhaps his decision to make the NATO summit his very first foreign trip perhaps reflects the situation South Korea and President Yoon stand in geopolitics that a gray zone is no longer allowed. President Yoon will have to balance his relations with the U.S. and China while dealing with a belligerent North Korea developing nuclear arms and missiles, while improving ties with Japan. Moon Conn-young, Arirang News, Madrid.