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  • Author: Scott A. Snyder, Geun Lee, You Young Kim, Jiyoon Kim
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Despite becoming influential on the world scene, South Korea remains a relatively weak country surrounded by larger, more powerful neigh- bors. This contrast between its global rank as a top-twenty economy and its regional status as the weakest country in Northeast Asia (with the exception of North Korea) poses a paradox for South Korean for- eign policy strategists. Despite successes addressing nontraditional security challenges in areas such as international development, global health, and UN peacekeeping, South Korea is limited in its capacity to act on regional security threats. South Korea has historically been a victim of geopolitical rivalries among contenders for regional hegemony in East Asia. But the coun- try’s rise in influence provides a glimmer of hope that it can break from its historical role by using its expanded capabilities as leverage to shape its strategic environment. The pressing dilemma for South Korean strategic thinkers is how to do so. As the regional security environment becomes more tense, South Korea’s strategic options are characterized by constraint, given potentially conflicting great-power rivalries and Pyongyang’s efforts to pursue asymmetric nuclear or cyber capabilities at Seoul’s expense. South Korea’s relative weakness puts a premium on its ability to achieve the internal political unity necessary to maximize its influence in foreign policy. Students of Korean history will recall that domestic factionalism among political elites was a chronic factor that hamstrung Korea’s dynastic leadership and contributed to its weakness in dealing with outside forces.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Daniel Markey, Paul B. Stares, Evan A. Feigenbaum, Scott A. Snyder, John W. Vessey, Joshua Kurlantzick
  • Publication Date: 08-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: If past experience is any guide, the United States and China will find themselves embroiled in a serious crisis at some point in the future. Such crises have occurred with some regularity in recent years, and often with little or no warning. Relatively recent examples include the Taiwan Strait crisis of 1996, the accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999, and the EP-3 reconnaissance plane incident in 2001, as well as several minor naval skirmishes since then. The ensuing tension has typically dissipated without major or lasting harm to U.S.-China relations. With China's rise as a global power, however, the next major crisis is likely to be freighted with greater significance for the relationship than in previous instances. Policymakers in both Washington and Beijing, not to mention their respective publics, have become more sensitive to each other's moves and intentions as the balance of power has shifted in recent years. As anxieties and uncertainties have grown, the level of mutual trust has inevitably diminished. How the two countries manage a future crisis or string of crises, therefore, could have profound and prolonged consequences for the U.S.-China relationship. Given the importance of this relationship to not only the future evolution of the Asia-Pacific region but also to the management of a host of international challenges, the stakes could not be higher.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Foreign Policy, Arms Control and Proliferation, Diplomacy, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Israel, Asia