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Showing posts for "Scott A. Snyder"

South Korea’s Delicate Regional Balancing Act

by Scott A. Snyder
U.S. President Barack Obama meets with South Korea's President Park Geun-hye in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, May 7, 2013. (Courtesy REUTERS/Jason Reed) U.S. President Barack Obama meets with South Korea's President Park Geun-hye in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, May 7, 2013. (Courtesy REUTERS/Jason Reed)

South Korea finds itself at the epicenter of a geostrategic danger zone that is all the more fragile today as a result of frictions resulting from China’s rise. More than ever, a volatile and self-isolated North Korean leadership is perceived as the trigger that could set off the regional powderkeg. Hence, South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s discussion with U.S. President Barack Obama regarding the North Korean issue will be an important and timely one. She will need strong support from the United States in her efforts to maintain South Korea’s delicate position between China and Japan and to stabilize the Korean peninsula. Read more »

The Need for Dual-Track Efforts to Strengthen International Norms in Northeast Asia

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se speaks at the 2014 NAPCI Forum. (Courtesy ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se speaks at the 2014 NAPCI Forum. (Courtesy ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade)

This post was co-authored with Kang Choi, the vice president of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies and director of the Center for Foreign Policy and National Security.

The establishment of a comprehensive vision for the U.S.-ROK alliance is based on converging interests and shared values. As a result, U.S.-ROK coordination in response to North Korean provocations has been strengthened, as demonstrated by how both sides worked together in support of tension-reduction during the recent exchange of fire in August along the DMZ. The United States and South Korea also coordinate regularly on other global issues, which include international public health, international development, and climate change. Nevertheless, a gap in U.S. and South Korean approaches on regional issues remains. The United States has framed its “rebalance” to Asia in regional terms while South Korea’s signature initiative in support of multilateral institution building, the Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative (NAPCI), focuses on the sub-region of Northeast Asia. The gap exists despite the fact that both countries share the goal of strengthening a strong foundation for the effective application of international norms within the region. Read more »

Prospects for a U.S.-South Korea-India Triangle?

by Scott A. Snyder
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye prior to their meeting at the presidential Blue House on May 18, 2015 in Seoul, South Korea. (Chung Sung-Jun/Courtesy Reuters) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye prior to their meeting at the presidential Blue House on May 18, 2015 in Seoul, South Korea. (Chung Sung-Jun/Courtesy Reuters)

Yonsei University Professor Chung Min Lee has described prospects for relations between South Korea and India as historically hampered by “geographic distance” and “mutual disinterest.” India was South Korea’s eighth largest export destination and only the twenty-second largest source of imports in 2014, with a total trade volume of $17.9 billion. Yet during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Seoul last May, he and South Korean President Park Geun-hye signed a Special Strategic Partnership agreement reflecting mutual aspirations for broad-based cooperation. Will the two countries’ parallel universes finally converge around a broader set of interests beyond their mutual concern with the Pakistan-North Korea nuclear proliferation axis? Read more »

Park’s Decision to Join Xi Jinping’s World War II Commemoration

by Scott A. Snyder
Park Geun-hye Xi Jinping China's President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with South Korea's President Park Geun-hye in front of Chinese and South Korean national flags during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People, on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings, in Beijing, November 10, 2014 (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters).

Many Western observers are likely to raise their eyebrows tomorrow when they see that South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye is standing alongside Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin on the reviewing stand at Tiananmen Square to mark China’s newly established holiday commemorating the end of World War II (WWII). As China’s next-door neighbor and a military ally of the United States, Park may seem to be a big catch for Beijing, which has been lobbying hard for the attendance of Park and other leaders of countries that experienced Japanese aggression during WWII. Some critics have already suggested that Park’s visit is evidence that South Korea cannot resist the growing centripetal pull of Beijing’s orbit. But Park’s presence alongside Xi is less about Park being snared by Beijing than it is about Park pressing to consolidate China’s support for Korean unification in the context of unprecedently weak ties between Beijing and Pyongyang. Read more »

A Modest Start Toward Inter-Korean Dialogue and Cooperation

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korean soldiers set up barricades at a checkpoint on the Grand Unification Bridge which leads to the truce village Panmunjom, just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, on August 22, 2015. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy: Reuters) South Korean soldiers set up barricades at a checkpoint on the Grand Unification Bridge which leads to the truce village Panmunjom, just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, on August 22, 2015. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy: Reuters)

Senior representatives of the two Koreas completed three days of marathon negotiations to avert further escalation of military tensions on August 25 at 12:55 a.m. local time. Despite hours spent at the negotiating table, the agreement itself is relatively short and straightforward. However, the fact that it took so long to reach the agreement underscores the difficulty both sides had in allowing each other to save face despite high tensions. Read more »

Inter-Korean Exchange of Fire Yields to Marathon Talks at the DMZ

by Scott A. Snyder
Kim Jong un North Korea South Korea Fire North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (2nd L) speaks at an emergency meeting of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) Central Military Commission, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 21, 2015 (KCNA/Reuters).

The South Korean injuries incurred on August 4 from land mines allegedly planted by North Korean soldiers at a South Korean guard post adjacent to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) has set off an inter-Korean rollercoaster ride punctuated by rising tensions: the first South Korean propaganda broadcasts toward the North in over a decade beginning August 10, an exchange of artillery fire across the DMZ on August 22, an ultimatum from the North demanding that South Korea stop the broadcasts by 5:00 p.m. on August 24 or face all-out war, and finally an agreement hours in advance of the North’s deadline to pursue over thirty hours (thus far) of marathon talks, led by senior military and civilian officials of the two governments at the Peace House on the South Korean side of the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom. Read more »

Three Geopolitical Constraints on South Korea’s Foreign Policy

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korean Ruling (Saenuri) Party Chairman Kim Moo-Sung speaks at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, DC, on July 27, 2015. (Courtesy: Woodrow Wilson Center) South Korean Ruling (Saenuri) Party Chairman Kim Moo-Sung speaks at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, DC, on July 27, 2015. (Courtesy: Woodrow Wilson Center)

Ruling (Saenuri) Party Chairman Kim Moo-Sung led a South Korean National Assembly delegation visit to Washington this week and gave a speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars.  His speech included three points that nicely summarize the constraints South Korea is currently facing in its foreign policy. Read more »

Challenges and Benefits of South Korea’s Middle Power Aspirations

by Scott A. Snyder
World leaders attend the opening plenary session of the G20 Summit in Seoul on November 12, 2010. (Yonhap Photo/Couresty: Reuters) World leaders attend the opening plenary session of the G20 Summit in Seoul on November 12, 2010. (Yonhap Photo/Couresty: Reuters)

South Koreans have been among the world’s early adopters in globalization over the past two decades, going from outpost to “node” by embracing networks, connectivity, and economic interdependence in startling fashion in a very short period of time. It has been commonplace for most South Koreans to think of themselves as a small country, buffeted by geostrategic factors beyond its control, consigned to its fate as a “shrimp among whales.” This narrative, generally speaking, conforms with the twentieth century historical experience on the Korean peninsula, which witnessed annexation, colonization, subjugation, and a moment of liberation, followed by division, war, and marginalization as an outpost of the Cold War. Outsider impressions of late twentieth century Korea tended to view Koreans as defensive, self-absorbed, xenophobic to varying degrees, and only capable of viewing the outside world through a distinctively “Korean” lens. Read more »

Japan-South Korea Relations on the Fiftieth Anniversary of Normalization

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korea's Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se (left) reaches out to shake hands with Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida at the foreign ministry's Iikura guest house in Tokyo on June 21, 2015. (Issei Kato/Courtesy: Reuters) South Korea's Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se (left) reaches out to shake hands with Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida at the foreign ministry's Iikura guest house in Tokyo on June 21, 2015. (Issei Kato/Courtesy: Reuters)

This post was co-authored with Brad Glosserman, executive director of Pacific Forum CSIS.

The Japan-South Korea relationship has been steadily improving in the run up to yesterday’s fiftieth anniversary of normalization.  In recent weeks ministerial–level bilateral contacts have resumed between economic and defense ministers. The relationship has essentially normalized (and the U.S. State Department spokesperson wasted no time in welcoming these developments), but President Park Geun-hye and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have yet to schedule a formal summit (although they have held informal encounters at the November 2014 APEC meeting in Beijing and on the occasion of Lee Kwan Yew’s funeral in Singapore earlier this spring). Read more »

Human Rights Conditions of Overseas Laborers from North Korea

by Scott A. Snyder
North Korean men look up as they work along the banks of the Yalu River near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, in this photo taken September 8, 2014. (Jacky Chen/Courtesy: Reuters) North Korean men look up as they work along the banks of the Yalu River near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, in this photo taken September 8, 2014. (Jacky Chen/Courtesy: Reuters)

The Database Center for North Korean Human Rights (NKDB) has released a new report entitled Human Rights and North Korea’s Overseas Laborers: Dilemmas and Policy Challenges, by Yoon Yeosang and Lee Seung-ju This report provides the most comprehensive picture to date on the scope and conditions under which North Koreans are contracted for overseas labor assignments. The report was discussed at an event last week in Washington held at the Korea Economic Institute of America. Read more »