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  • Author: Young Ho Kim
  • Publication Date: 02-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: East Asia Institute (EAI)
  • Abstract: On January 5, 2012, U.S. President Barack Obama paid a rare visit to the Pentagon and unveiled his guidelines for the Department of Defense to set the goals and priorities of its defense strategy for the next ten years. The resulting eight-page-long guidelines, entitled Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense (hereafter DSG), contain the administration’s assessment of changing global security conditions and propose the roles and shape of the U.S. armed forces for the coming decade. Prepared through “unprecedentedly” close consultations between the President himself and senior leaders in the U.S. defense department and military including both service chiefs and combatant commanders, the DSG defines the present as a historic “inflection point” and envisions the future U.S. military as “smaller and leaner, but agile, flexible, ready and technologically advanced.” Moreover, in accordance with the DSG the U.S. defense budget will be cut by $487 billion and the sizes of the Army and Marine Corps will shrink by 80,000 and 14,000 respectively over the next ten years. While a more detailed picture will be revealed next month with the administration’s FY2013 budget request to Congress, the DSG reflects the Obama administration’s arduous effort to rebalance and redirect its defense priorities and spending under severe fiscal austerity. Because of the unusual timing of its publication and the magnitude of the reduction in defense spending, the DSG has generated controversy and concern domestically in the United States as well as internationally. In the United States, particularly people in the conservative wing of the Republican Party have been prompted to criticize the guidelines for putting the nation’s security in danger, whereas some people on the liberal side have advocated seeking deeper and bolder cuts in defense spending. Internationally, China was understandably the first to respond negatively to the DSG. For example, rebutting the DSG’s portrayal of Beijing’s military policy as lacking transparency as “groundless and untrustworthy,” Liu Weimin, a spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, stressed that Beijing was committed to peaceful development and “defensive” policy. What then are the implications of the DSG for South Korean security? Will there be any changes in U.S. defense policy or posture in the region under the DSG that may affect security conditions in South Korea significantly and, if so, require new measures or scrutiny by the South Korean government or the military? In fact, there have been largely four issues raised by the news media in South Korea. I will examine these four issues, and then discuss more challenging concerns that will require closer attention by South Korean foreign and security policy-makers.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, International Cooperation, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Seungjoo Lee
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: East Asia Institute (EAI)
  • Abstract: With the prospect of leadership change in China and the United States in 2012, the possibility for instability and uncertainty in the East Asia region is high. Despite such concerns, it is expected that the current structure of global governance will mitigate the difficulties associated with this period of transition. Considering the importance of global governance, it becomes necessary then to follow the changes in the global and regional architecture and think about how South Korea should meet this challenge. The trio of closely-related summit meetings that took place in November 2011 was such an occasion in which China and the United States grappled to shape the regional and global architecture. These meetings included the G20 Cannes summit on November 3, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit on November 12, and the East Asia Summit (EAS) on November 19. It is important to focus on the fact that during these meetings Beijing and Washington had the chance to examine the intention and capability of each other. In that sense, these meetings were akin to that of a boxing match fought over three rounds using not force but the complex elements of international politics in the twenty-first century that interact to design the regional and global architecture. These elements include power politics in international relations, cooperation and conflict in institutions and networks, and the knowledge power which allows for a consensus among countries by sharing the vision of a new order.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Globalization, Hegemony, Leadership
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Andrei Lankov
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: East Asia Institute (EAI)
  • Abstract: Few people would doubt that the continuing rise of China is the single most influential factor in the evolving geostrategic position of Korea. Over the last 35 years, China has experienced a period of rapid economic growth which is probably without parallel in world economic history, and this period is not over. While China is still far from being in a position to challenge global US hegemony, it is quite possible that it will play a dominant role in East Asia, especially if ongoing changes in the world economy press the US into reducing military spending and downsizing its global role. Indeed, in the last few years China loomed increasingly large in issues of the North Korean politics. Some of the most controversial political problems of present-day Korea are clearly related to China’s rise. The fate of the Jeju naval base, whichever is officially stated, largely depends on whether Korea will eventually chose to balance against or bandwagon with rising China. The problem of the forced deportation of the North Korean refugees attracted much attention of the Korean public to the issues of human rights in China – perhaps, first time when such issues are discussed widely. It seems that the rise of China will present Korea with many a difficult decision. In some cases, confrontation is likely to develop, but usually some kind of compromise is, probably, the best option. Like it or not, most problems in East Asia cannot be effectively solved without cooperation with (or at least the passive support of) China. This is the case with the major long-term issue of Korean politics, that is, the issue of Korean unification.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Hegemony, Geopolitics, Leadership
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Haejong Lee
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: East Asia Institute (EAI)
  • Abstract: Alliance is an instrument for national interest, which is dependent upon the international environment and defined by domestic, democratic political processes. This commonsense notion of alliance was not fully embraced by the incoming South Korean administration of Lee Myung Bak in 2008. For the Lee administration, South Korea’s alliance with the United States was much more than an instrument of foreign policy. The alliance embodied South Korea’s political identity and was severely damaged by the preceding Roh Moo Hyun administration’s anti-American, pro–North Korean policies. The restoration of the Republic of Korea (ROK)–US alliance was both the goal and key to its national security strategy of Global Korea to enhance South Korean’s influence, contribution, and stature on a global scale. Thereafter, in a circle of the alliance’s cheerleaders in both Seoul and Washington, the alliance has almost taken its own life: the alliance should be protected from disruptive political forces and modernized/adjusted/expanded into new dimensions for the preservation of the alliance itself. In the post–Cold War years, the United States has tried to modernize its military alliances in order to preserve its influence at reduced costs. The Barack Obama administration had to mend US alliances strained during the George W. Bush administration’s war on terror. In 2009, Presidents Lee and Obama agreed on “a comprehensive strategic alliance of bilateral, regional, and global scope, based on common values and mutual trust.” The so-called Great Recession, triggered by the fall of Lehman Brothers on September 15, 2008, has both brought to power and bedeviled the Obama administration; 9/15 has become a new historical marker, replacing 9/11. The very “common values” of the ROK-US strategic alliance—democracy and market economy—have been put to the test; the worries and cries over the decline of the US have arisen once again. In May 2010, the Obama administration published its national security strategy of national renewal and global leadership. Nation-building at home was the primary goal of and imperative to national security. Along with moral leadership to “live” American values, global architecture to embed both allies and challengers in US-centered institutional networks became a new feature of American global leadership. “The United States can, must, and will lead in this new century,” asserted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in September 2010 at the Council of Foreign Relations, the oldest bastion of American global leadership. She went on to declare that “the complexity and connection of today’s world have yielded a new American moment, a moment when our global leadership is essential, even if we must often lead in new ways.” Confirming that “the 21st century will be another great American century,” President Obama argued at this year’s Air Force Academy graduation ceremony that “we have laid the foundation for a new era of American leadership.” Global Korea, with a comprehensive strategic alliance and a free trade agreement with the United States and hosting of a G-20 meeting and nuclear security summit, has been an integral part and a success story of American global architecture. The Lee administration was awarded with the first two-plus-two (foreign and defense ministers) meeting in 2010, which had been previously held only with Japan, and a state visit to Washington in 2011. “The relation between our two countries has never been stronger,” commended Secretary of State Clinton in this year’s second two-plus-two meeting. Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-Jin confirmed the 2015 operation control plan and expressed commitment to make “the alliance the best alliance in the world.” American Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta lauded an ongoing trilateral collaboration, including Korea and Japan, to deter North Korea as “another way to strengthen and modernize our alliance.” It is widely disputed that the Obama administration has seized a new American moment and laid the foundation for a new American century. The Obama administration has been beset with rampant unemployment and snowballing deficits. “The Moment of Truth,” a bipartisan commission’s report on the financial crisis, issued a warning in 2010 that it is imperative to raise revenues and to cut both defense and nondefense spending—in short, a complete overhaul of the existing American national security state and social welfare system. However, the political polarization of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street and resultant partisan gridlock have foiled nation-building at home and led to the first downgrading of the US credit rating and a self-made financial cliff of sequester—mandatory across-the-board budget cuts in the next ten years beginning January 2013. Against its lean and mean years, the Obama administration’s rhetoric of a new American moment or century rings hollow. In contrast, the positive—it couldn’t be better—evaluation on the state of the ROK-US alliance is widely held. Nevertheless, the alliance’s success does not resonate with a (far from positive) strategic reality facing South Korea; nor does the alliance translate into a smooth-working component of American global architecture. The Lee administration has doubled down on its alliance with the US. With the Obama administration’s “strategic patience” or no policy toward North Korea, the Lee administration has succeeded in punishing/isolating North Korea but failed to prevent the latter’s development of nuclear capacity, not to mention the latter’s denuclearization. Or, to put it differently, when it comes to nuclear issues or power transition, North Korea has been on its own, with no South Korean leverage over the latter. Most critically and tragically, Global Korea’s prime moment of hosting a G-20 meeting in November 2010 (in the midst of the final renegotiation of a Korea-US free trade agreement) was followed by North Korea’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, which in turn led to a joint Korean-US military exercise including the USS George Washington aircraft carrier and which was opposed by China. In the G-20/Yeonpyeong moment, the Lee administration succeeded in synchronizing its strategic and comprehensive alliance with the US and global contribution but rather miserably failed to maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula and manage its relationship with China. On the other hand, the ROK-US comprehensive and strategic alliance does not dispense with politics among allies; nor does it develop into a trilateral cooperation of the United States, South Korea, and Japan. The Lee administration has been at odds with the United States on the issues of spent nuclear fuel reprocessing and missile development, albeit much out of public scrutiny. In addition, the Lee administration has recently confronted Japan with the territorial issue of Dokdo and Japanese colonialism, along with a public relations campaign, including President Lee’s visit to Dokdo in August 2012. This was an abrupt turnabout from its attempt to share information with Japan on North Korea through a military accord—a trilateral collaboration that Panetta mentioned as a way to modernize the ROK-US alliance. Faced with a public uproar against the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), the Lee administration canceled the latter’s signing ceremony at the last minute and turned to confront Japan, which reciprocated with its territorial claim and disavowal of historical responsibilities for colonialism, and even a threat to halt financial cooperation. In sum, despite of (or because of, if you will) the much touted success of the ROK-US alliance, South Korea is now in a diplomatic wilderness, isolated from all of its neighbors—North Korea, China, and Japan. Why? It is, I argue, because President Lee’s Global Korea was a vision for a bygone, pre–Great Recession, and pre-G-2 world. As long as the United States confronted an assertive China with allies and new partners, South Korea’s strategic alliance with the United States could serve both the former’s security interests and the latter’s regional architect. The sinking of the Cheonan happened in the context of such confrontations of the United States and China over the South China Seas, which led to the rescheduling of transfer of operational control (from the United States to South Korea) from 2012 to 2015 that had been requested by the Lee administration. However, as the United States began to embrace China and both deemed it necessary to contain security tensions on the Korean Peninsula, an assertive South Korea against North Korea and China became a liability to the United States, and South Korea’s strategic, global, comprehensive alliance with the United States became superfluous, if not necessarily inimical, to South Korea’s local and regional interests. Such was the case after the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. Following is a reconstruction of an anticlimax of Global Korea in the historical contexts of the Obama administration’s struggles to forge a new American global leadership.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, G20, Alliance
  • Political Geography: Asia, South Korea, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Young Kwon Sohn
  • Publication Date: 11-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: East Asia Institute (EAI)
  • Abstract: After the extended and fierce campaign, Obama finally clinched the victory in the 2012 presidential election. By gaining more than 300 electoral-college votes, which are disproportionately huge given his popular vote margin of around two percent over Romney(50% vs. 48%), he can legitimately claim national mandate for the next four year, although conservatives will be reluctant to embrace that mandate. After making a history four years ago by becoming the first black president to occupy the White House, he made another history this year by recapturing the presidency amid the still evolving Great Recession with the high unemployment rate around 7.1%. Given this historic nature of Obama’s second term, this paper aims to show how Obama was able to maintain an exceptionally competitive campaign despite the extremely bad national economic conditions. From the widely accepted consensus that the outcome of the U.S. presidential election is largely determined by the economic conditions of the election year, Obama’s successful presidential campaign needs explanation in one way or another. Following that, the paper also attempts to predict what the post-election U.S. East Asia policy look like. Will the post-election U.S. policy be different from the mainline policy of the last four years? If not, what would be rationale of the policy consistency? This paper will address these questions.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, International Cooperation, Elections, Leadership
  • Political Geography: East Asia, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Sook-Jong Lee
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: East Asia Institute (EAI)
  • Abstract: States form images of each other based on assessments of each other’s material capabilities or on interpretations of each other’s intentions. Images matter in the foreign policy making process since they form popular public opinion on official policies and, in more basic ways, construct people’s identity toward other countries. Some images are more transient and therefore manageable. Remarks by foreign leaders, official documents, or media coverage tend to belong to this category. States try to make their images favorable in the minds of a foreign audience through their public diplomacy efforts. On the other hand, some images are more fundamental and hard to change, so that foreign policies are pressed to operate within their perimeter. Political ideology, religious orientation, and accumulated bilateral historical experiences tend to form these more durable images. Today’s globalized world has witnessed the rise of the Internet as an important medium constructing popular images of a foreign country. As mass communication across countries becomes more open and instant, foreign policy makers face the increasing challenge of controlling information flows and separating foreign policy agendas from domestic interests. Citizens with less direct contact are more prone to embracing popular images mediated by mass media. Elites, in contrast, who have more direct contact and knowledge, tend to have more rationally interpreted images of foreign countries. Formerly, elites used to monopolize foreign policy inputs. In the porous world of today, however, it is difficult for elites to resist and persuade popular opinion, which is more emotionally driven. This challenge is felt in China, where the leadership is sometimes at odds with irrational populism. In this respect, it is important to understand Chinese images of South Korea. How do elites and ordinary citizens of China hold South Korea in their political imagination? What are the implications of Chinese images of Korea for Seoul’s China policy?
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Globalization, Regional Cooperation, Populism
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, South Korea
  • Author: Yang Gyu Kim
  • Publication Date: 07-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: East Asia Institute (EAI)
  • Abstract: In studying the dynamics of U.S.-China relations, one of the most important questions is what data should be used. A review of all classified documents from the two countries may be the ideal way to secure reliable data, but it is not viable. Interviews with key officials in the two governments could be the next best choice but it is still extremely hard to know whether that person is telling the truth or not. In this regard, the official statements of the two countries are the only reliable and authoritative source for research. Of course in official statements, propaganda may be included and they cannot always be taken at face value. However, as information is ubiquitous in this era of globalization, a government would pay a tremendous cost if it expresses contradictory policies in its own official statements. We can therefore assume that official statements provide information on the general direction of the two country’s policies. Which documents can be accepted as official statements? The United States, of course, makes its policies well known throughout the world and has shown high levels of consistency across different departments of the government over its foreign policy. The official statements of the United States are therefore easily accessible through various official government websites including the State Department. On the other hand, China maintains a rather closed socialist system and there are not many documents that could be identified as official statements except for the regular press conferences of the Foreign Ministry. Even with these press conferences, the spokesperson usually responds to selected questions raised by the media. This brings a considerable limitation in collecting official statements from China. In order to address this difficulty, U.S.-China Relations (UCR) Statement Factsheets include editorials of the news outlets run by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as official statements. Data collection began from November 2010. This period is important because first, it marks one year since the U.S.-China summit in November 2009 and second, it coincides with the G20 Seoul Summit held in November. Particularly the G20 summit was meaningful as it “clearly demonstrated that we are in a period of transition where the United States is no longer the world’s hegemon, yet no new power emerges.” (Sohn and Cho 2010, 1) Third, Xi Jinping was appointed as vice chairman of the Central Military Commission on 18 October, 2010 and is expected to be the next leader of China. This appointment then signals a new period where the next generation of leaders in the CCP will begin to assert their influence and views. For both the statements from the United States and China, English texts are used presented by either the official government department or a CCP-affiliated media outlet. The reason for not using Chinese language sources is that official statements in Chinese tend to be directed at a domestic audience, and the focus here is on the international messages that are being conveyed. The data is collected everyday and published as a monthly report, UCR Statement Factsheet. The UCR Briefing will analyze the UCR Statement Factsheets and summarize what has happened during the period in narrative form. The UCR Briefing will also focus on critical factors and issues in understanding the present and future of U.S.-China relations. This UCR Briefing No. 1 covers official statements of the United States and China from November 2010 to February 2011.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, International Cooperation, Regional Cooperation, Economic Cooperation
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Dong Sun Lee
  • Publication Date: 07-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: East Asia Institute (EAI)
  • Abstract: In late 2009, a North Korean warship attacked South Korean naval vessels near Daecheong Island. The following year witnessed a further elevation of North Korean aggression expressed in attacks on the South Korean corvette Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island. These shocking developments have sparked a heated debate in the South, inter alia, on whether and how Seoul’s North Korea policy has increased Pyongyang’s belligerence. This paper aims to critically evaluate key arguments pervading the debate and offer an alternative perspective. (I limit my scope to examining how Seoul’s policy has affected Pyongyang’s recent aggressiveness, instead of offering a more comprehensive account of the provocations or a theory of North Korean behavior.) I argue that all conventional wisdom (which either denies the significance of North Korea policy or views the level of engagement as mainly shaping Pyongyang’s behavior) has only weak empirical support, but remains salient because it serves parochial political interests in the partisan blame game. In reality, Seoul’s policy toward Pyongyang has significantly amplified North Korean belligerence primarily because it has been partisan in nature—not because inter-Korean engagement has been excessive or insufficient. Resolving this problem requires promoting post-partisanship, to which independent scholars and institutions can contribute significantly.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Defense Policy, Military Strategy, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Seung-Yul Oh
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: East Asia Institute (EAI)
  • Abstract: In the first half of 2011, bilateral trade volume between China and North Korea doubled compared to the same period of the previous year. On August 2, North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Guan concluded his week-long visit to Washington at the invitation of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Furthermore, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, during his first visit to Russia since 2002, met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at a military base on the outskirts of the eastern Siberian city of Ulan-Ude to talk about bilateral economic cooperation on August 24. Seemingly, North Korea’s hectic diplomatic efforts shed light on the long-stalled Six-Party talks, and it tries to counterweigh its heavy dependency on China. Is North Korea changing its attitude toward the outside world? In order to answer the question, this paper delves into the strategic motivation of the North and China for expanding Korea-China economic relations in terms of China’s strategic shift and North Korea’s open-door to China policy. Since the global financial crisis, China’s hierarchical status in the world economic order in terms of economic volume and influence improved so fast that even China itself has been facing some difficulties in accommodating the changes in its domestic sociopolitical sphere as well as its external strategies. Premier Wen’s repeated emphasis on the imperativeness of political reform in China is, to some extent, related to the discrepancies in the speed of changes between China’s political institutions and economic power, that is, imbalances in the basis and the superstructure in terms of the political philosophy of Karl Marx. For Marx, the stubborn capitalistic superstructure was a big problem. But in today’s China, the bureaucratic and closed superstructure is in contradiction with its globalized market economy as the world’s workshop. China’s gains from its peaceful rise have not been free from the pains of growth. Such a dilemma might be understood from the example of the contradiction in China’s external political gestures: it categorically argues that it is a member of developing countries when meeting with representatives from those developing countries; nevertheless, at the same time, it deliberately releases news about its achievements in military technologies, for example, those of the J-20 stealth fighter and the super-aircraft carrier. In addition, at the news conference after the closing ceremony of the third China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington in May 2011, the Chinese delegation used the phrase “two leaders” frequently, designating the two giants, China and the United States.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North Korea
  • Author: Jihwan Hwang
  • Publication Date: 12-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: East Asia Institute (EAI)
  • Abstract: The global and East Asian orders of power are now represented by China's economic, military, and diplomatic rise and America's decline. The result is often called Chimerica or G2, leading to U.S.-China competition in every aspect of the international agenda. After the Bush administration's foreign policy in the first years of the millennium, when many scholars and policy makers focused on U.S. unipolarity or at least its preponderance of power after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the current state of affairs is a great change. While U.S.-China relations represent a set of the most important variables in world politics, the meaning of China’s rise is much greater in the East Asian regional order. The Korean Peninsula, of course, cannot escape from the influence of its neighbors. Although the world order of the 1990s saw the unprecedented economic prosperity and overwhelming military power of the United States, the recent order has been characterized by the relative decline of the United States and the fast and strong rise of China. The Chinese economy has grown more than 10 percent per year for the last thirty years and is now the world's second-largest economy. Although the Chinese GDP is still only one-third that of the United States, as TABLE 1 shows, it is not at all unheard of to say that China may economically catch up with the superpower by 2030. Moreover, China's trade with Northeast Asian countries is much larger than that of the United States. As TABLE 2 shows, China's exports and imports with South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan are almost twice as large when compared with those of the United States. Given America's economic recession and China's incessant growth, the gap between the two is likely to get much larger. China's increasing economic interdependence with regional powers will have a great effect on the changing balance of power in the region, and will have a much greater effect on the Korean Peninsula. On the other hand, China has also made every effort to build up its military capability. Supported by its strong economic growth, Chinese military spending has been hugely increased, more than 10 percent per year on average. China spent 40 billion U.S. dollars in 2001, but it spent 119 billion in 2010, an increase of almost three times in ten years. TABLE 3 indicates that Chinese military spending is still less than one sixth compared to the American figure, but one must recognize that while the United States plans to cut its military spending in the next decade due to its budget deficit, China is certain to keep increasing its, unless its economy falls into deep trouble in the near future.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Economics, Military Strategy, GDP
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea