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  • Author: Frank Aum, Jacob Stokes, Patricia M. Kim, Atman M. Trivedi, Rachel Vandenbrink, Jennifer Staats, Joseph Yun
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: A joint statement by the United States and North Korea in June 2018 declared that the two countries were committed to building “a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.” Such a peace regime will ultimately require the engagement and cooperation of not just North Korea and the United States, but also South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan. This report outlines the perspectives and interests of each of these countries as well as the diplomatic, security, and economic components necessary for a comprehensive peace.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Diplomacy, Economy, Peace
  • Political Geography: Russia, Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea, Korean Peninsula, United States of America
  • Author: Karl Friedhoff
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Chicago Council on Global Affairs
  • Abstract: North Korea’s promise to deliver an end-of-year “Christmas gift” went unfulfilled amid signs that the United States wanted to continue diplomacy with the Kim regime. This has led to a continued lull in tensions between the two countries, although actual progress in negotiations remains elusive. With that lack of progress, President Donald Trump has reportedly told his advisers that he does not want another summit with Kim Jong Un before the US presidential election in November. In a survey conducted from January 10–12, 2020, the American public is now less concerned about the threat posed by North Korea, but little else has changed in terms of Americans’ policy preferences to deal with North Korea’s nuclear program. Majorities still oppose airstrikes against North Korea and support long-term military bases in South Korea.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Bilateral Relations, Public Opinion, Donald Trump
  • Political Geography: Asia, South Korea, North Korea, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The analysis concludes that the sudden breakdown in the latest round of U.S.-Korean nuclear arms control talks in Vietnam should scarcely come as a surprise to anyone. Both sides sought too much too soon and did so despite a long history of previous failures. Heads of state engaged before their staffs had reached a clear compromise and did so seeking goals the other leader could not accept. It is not clear that an agreement was reachable at this point in time, but each side's search for its "best" ensured that the two sides could not compromise on the "good." This failure sent yet another warning that agreements like the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear arms agreement with Iran that offers major progress in limiting a nation's nuclear weapons efforts can be far better than no agreement, and of the danger in letting the perfect become the enemy of the good. The failed U.S. negotiations with Korea sends a warning that any set of compromises that preserves Iran's compliance with the JCPOA, and creates a structure where negotiation can continue, will be better than provoking a crisis with Iran that can end in no agreement at all and alienate America's European allies in the process.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Arms Control and Proliferation, Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Denuclearization, JCPOA
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Asia, South Korea, North Korea, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Luke Patey
  • Publication Date: 02-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Danish Institute for International Studies
  • Abstract: Japan’s absence from frontline diplomacy on the North Korea crisis is undermining inter-national efforts to bring about a lasting peace. A close alliance with Tokyo is essential for American and European interests in East Asia. RECOMMENDATIONS ■ The European Union should consider playing a larger role as a mediator in the North Korean crisis. ■The United States can use its diplomatic weight to help Japan solve the abductee issue with North Korea. ■In the face of their shared security threat, Japan should take steps to ease current tensions with South Korea.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Power Politics, European Union, Geopolitics
  • Political Geography: Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Victor D. Cha
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: There were high expectations at the second meeting of American and North Korean leaders in Vietnam last month after the absence of progress on denuclearization commitments made at the first summit in Singapore last summer. Yet at Hanoi, not only were the two leaders unable to deliver an agreement with tangible steps on denuclearization, but they also dispensed with the joint statement signing, cancelled the ceremonial lunch and skipped the joint press conference. In a solo presser, President Donald Trump said that sometimes you “have to walk, and this was just one of those times.”[2] The President indeed may have avoided getting entrapped into a bad deal at Hanoi. What North Korea put on the table in terms of the Yongbyon nuclear complex addresses a fraction of its growing nuclear program that does not even break the surface of its underlying arsenal and stockpiles of fissile materials, not to mention missile bases and delivery systems. And what North Korea sought in return, in terms of major sanctions relief on five UN Security Council resolutions that target 90 percent of North Korea’s trade, would have removed one of the primary sources of leverage, albeit imperfect, on the regime. In this instance, no deal was better than a bad deal for the United States. Nevertheless, the Hanoi summit has left the United States with no clear diplomatic road ahead on this challenging security problem, a trail of puzzled allies in Asia and the promise of no more made-for-television summit meetings for the foreseeable future. The question remains, where do we go from here? When leaders’ summits fail to reach agreement, diplomacy by definition has reached the end of its rope. President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put on the best face they could in Hanoi, talking about closer understanding and continued good relations between the two sides as a result of the meetings, but the failed summit leaves a great deal of uncertainty going forward. South Koreans will frantically seek meetings with Washington and Pyongyang to pick up the pieces. The North Koreans already have sent an envoy to China to chart next steps. While I do not think this will mean a return to the “Fire and Fury” days of 2017 when armed conflict was possible, we have learned numerous lessons from Hanoi for going forward.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Deterrence, Denuclearization
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Jonathan Lim
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Journal of Korean Studies
  • Institution: International Council on Korean Studies
  • Abstract: This paper conceptualizes the emerging détente within inter-Korean relations as evidence of tangible transformations within North Korea’s domestic and foreign policy, establishing how this phenomenon represents a unique and conclusive opportunity for peace and engagement. It contextualizes the inter-Korean and Singapore summits as foundations for the détente, before expanding upon the nature of the détente through the contrasting objectives of North and South Korea, and the transitional nature of domestic affairs in North Korea. The article establishes the bona fide nature of North Korea’s détente, as revealed by a direct connection between North Korea’s international diplomatic gestures vis-av-vis transitional domestic circumstances; involving incremental economic modernization and political liberalization under a shift in focus within Kim Jong-un’s Byungjin Line policy. This analysis departs from and orthodox Western interpretation of inter-Korean relations, providing a holistic analysis of inter-Korean affairs and North Korean domestic politics.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Bilateral Relations, Conflict, Peace
  • Political Geography: Asia, South Korea, North Korea, Singapore
  • Author: Karl Friedhoff, Dina Smeltz, J. James Kim, Kang Chungku, Scott A. Snyder
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Chicago Council on Global Affairs
  • Abstract: While Seoul and Washington currently agree on using high-level diplomacy to encourage North Korea to denuclearize, South Korean and US approaches toward China differ and could become a source of friction between the two allies. Under President Donald Trump, the United States has confronted China through tariffs on Chinese imports and identified China as a near-peer adversary. Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has made efforts to end a dispute with China over the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system and indicated openness to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Public preferences in both the United States and South Korea are not necessarily aligned with their own governments’ policies toward China. Chicago Council and Asan Institute surveys conducted in 2019 find that both South Koreans and Americans see a strengthened US-ROK alliance as an asset in dealing with China, suggesting that Washington and Seoul can afford to strengthen coordination between their policies toward China.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Geopolitics, Strategic Competition
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Naoko Aoki
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: After conducting a record number of missile and nuclear tests in 2016 and 2017, North Korea dramatically changed its policy approach and embarked on a diplomatic initiative in 2018. It announced a self-imposed halt on missile and nuclear tests and held summit meetings with the United States, China, and South Korea from spring of that year. Why did North Korea shift its policy approach? This paper evaluates four alternative explanations. The first is that the change was driven by North Korea’s security calculus. In other words, North Korea planned to achieve its security goals first before turning to diplomacy and successfully followed through with this plan. The second is that U.S. military threats forced North Korea to change its course. The third is that U.S.-led sanctions caused North Korea to shift its policy by increasing economic pain on the country. The fourth is that diplomatic initiatives by South Korea and others prompted North Korea to change its position. This paper examines the actions and statements of the United States, North Korea, China, South Korea, and Russia leading up to and during this period to assess these four explanations. It concludes that military threats and economic pain did not dissuade North Korea from obtaining what it considered an adequate level of nuclear deterrence against the United States and that North Korea turned to diplomacy only after achieving its security goals. External pressure may have encouraged North Korea to speed up its efforts to develop the capacity to strike the United States with a nuclear-armed missile, the opposite of its intended effect. Diplomatic and economic pressure may have compelled Kim Jong Un to declare that North Korea had achieved its “state nuclear force” before conducting all the nuclear and ballistic missile tests needed to be fully confident that it could hit targets in the continental United States. These findings suggest that if a pressure campaign against North Korea is to achieve its intended impact, the United States has to more carefully consider how pressure would interact with North Korean policy priorities. Pressure should be applied only to pursue specific achievable goals and should be frequently assessed for its impact.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Nonproliferation, Deterrence
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Jessica J. Lee
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
  • Abstract: President Trump contends that “very rich and wealthy countries” like the Republic of Korea should pay more for American troops stationed in their countries. While a more balanced burden-sharing arrangement is necessary, the U.S.’s demand for a five-fold increase in South Korea’s contribution, from $924 million to $5 billion, threatens to tear apart the bilateral relationship and undermines U.S. interests on the Korean Peninsula. The issue demanding attention is not who pays how much, but whether the existing terms of the U.S.–ROK security relationship remain pertinent or must be revised. The long-term goal of U.S. grand strategy should be to facilitate the creation of a peaceful global order consisting of fully sovereign, law-abiding states capable of providing for their own security. Any state that hosts foreign forces and relies on those forces for its defense is not fully sovereign: It is dependent upon others to ensure its security. This describes the Republic of Korea today.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Nuclear Weapons, Liberal Order, Alliance
  • Political Geography: United States, Asia, South Korea
  • Author: Jong-hwa Ahn
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Pacific Forum
  • Abstract: The Republic of Korea has chosen its alignment strategies and policy actions based on international dynamics and domestic constraints. South Korea’s domestic politics have had different effects on the recent administrations. Park Geun-hye had to accept the discontinuity of her foreign policy when she faced impeachment. Moon Jae-in, however, has pursued his dreams for inter-Korean relations despite systemic and domestic obstacles. In the spirit of neoclassical realism, this study identifies state-society relations and domestic institutions as key interventions in the calculus of foreign policy behavior amidst the critical influence of systemic variables. Whereas the Park administration disregarded the dynamics of domestic politics by putting state security above all else, the Moon administration has pursued a détente policy with a deep awareness of domestic politics. In a restrictive strategic environment, South Korea’s policy options are limited and the optimal choices are not necessarily the ideal ones. Foreign policy actions based on the dynamics of systemic structures and domestic politics have significant implications for Northeast Asia. State-society relations and domestic institutions have implications for the US-South Korea-Japan strategic triangle. Different strategic interests in the region place the triangle at risk in dealing with the North Korean security problem.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Peace
  • Political Geography: South Korea, Korea