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Showing posts for "Scott A. Snyder"

North Korea’s Fourth Nuclear Test: How to Respond?

by Scott A. Snyder
Ko Yun-hwa (L), Administrator of Korea Meteorological Administration, points at where seismic waves observed in South Korea came from, during a media briefing at Korea Meteorological Administration in Seoul, South Korea, January 6, 2016. (Courtesy REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji) Ko Yun-hwa (L), Administrator of Korea Meteorological Administration, points at where seismic waves observed in South Korea came from, during a media briefing at Korea Meteorological Administration in Seoul, South Korea, January 6, 2016. (Courtesy REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji)

North Korea announced that it has conducted its fourth nuclear test on January 6, 2016, following reports of a 5.1 magnitude artificial earthquake near the site of North Korea’s past nuclear tests. Regardless of whether or not the North’s claims to have conducted a test of a “hydrogen bomb” are true, the test occurs in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions sanctioning North Korea for conducting three previous tests and despite repeated warnings by the leaders of the United States, South Korea, and China not to do so. South Korea’s foreign minister stated in April of 2014 that North Korea’s fourth nuclear test would be a “game changer,” but this will only be the case if the United States, South Korea, and China can lead a response that imposes real costs on Pyongyang. Read more »

Domestic Political Obstacles and the U.S. Role in Improving Japan-Korea Relations

by Scott A. Snyder
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye listen during the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) dialogue at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila, Philippines November 18, 2015. (Courtesy REUTERS/Wally Santana/Pool) Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye listen during the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) dialogue at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila, Philippines November 18, 2015. (Courtesy REUTERS/Wally Santana/Pool)

Despite the resumption of high-level Japan-South Korea ties with the holding of a “cold summit” in Seoul last month between South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, prospects for a breakthrough in Japan-South Korea relations remain distant on the fiftieth anniversary of diplomatic normalization between Seoul and Tokyo. If anything, the gap between Park and Abe on how to address the issue of comfort women has grown deeper, despite a realization on the part of both governments that the issue must be managed as one part of a broader relationship rather than be allowed to block all forms of cooperation between the two sides. Read more »

Planning for Korean Unification

by Scott A. Snyder
Members of the North Korean soccer team run down the field after Jin
Pyol Hui (hidden) scored her team's 3rd goal against Nigeria during
second half action in their first round FIFA Women's World Cup game in
Philadelphia, September 20, 2003. North Korea defeated Nigeria 3-0.
After the goal, fans of the team unfurled a larged flag showing the
Korean peninsula. The fans held up signs during the game promoting a
unified Korea. (Courtesy REUTERS/Gary Hershorn) Members of the North Korean soccer team run down the field after Jin Pyol Hui (hidden) scored her team's 3rd goal against Nigeria during second half action in their first round FIFA Women's World Cup game in Philadelphia, September 20, 2003. North Korea defeated Nigeria 3-0. After the goal, fans of the team unfurled a larged flag showing the Korean peninsula. The fans held up signs during the game promoting a unified Korea. (Courtesy REUTERS/Gary Hershorn)

This post was coauthored with Sungtae “Jacky” Park, research associate for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Last week Kim Jong-un marked the fourth anniversary of his succession to leadership and his father’s death in North Korea. The leadership transition reignited discussion among North Korea watchers over how and whether the regime would be able to survive. Two years later, Kim had his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, executed for treason, sparking another round of speculation over whether the execution reflected a step toward consolidation of power under or was evidence of infighting that might lead to a leadership vacuum in Pyongyang. Because North Korea’s totalitarian system requires isolation to perpetuate political control yet is increasingly penetrated by markets and information, speculation about North Korea’s collapse will persist, and outside observers will judge that Kim is playing a losing hand. Read more »

North Korea’s Band Came Home, and Inter-Korean Talks Broke Down: What Next?

by Scott A. Snyder
The Moranbong Band performs for participants of the Fifth Conference of Training Officers of the Korean People's Army at the People's Palace of Culture in Pyongyang, in this April 27, 2015 photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 29, 2015. (Courtesy REUTERS/KCNA) The Moranbong Band performs for participants of the Fifth Conference of Training Officers of the Korean People's Army at the People's Palace of Culture in Pyongyang, in this April 27, 2015 photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 29, 2015. (Courtesy REUTERS/KCNA)

Last week it seemed possible that North Korea was ready for the first time under Kim Jong-un to reach out in parallel to its closest neighbors, South Korea and China. Inter-Korean dialogue had resumed last Friday at the vice-minister level in Kaesong. At the same time, Pyongyang sent Kim Jong-un’s favorite all-female Moranbong band to Beijing as a signal of potential willingness to re-open normal relations between Pyongyang and Beijing. However, both initiatives appear to have foundered because of North Korea’s commitment to its nuclear weapons program, underscoring the country’s diplomatic isolation. Read more »

U.S. Policy Toward North Korea: Weighing the Urgent, the Important, and the Feasible

by Scott A. Snyder
North Koreans including soldiers attend a rally in support of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's order to put its missile units on standby in preparation for a possible war against the U.S. and South Korea, in Pyongyang March 29, 2013, in this picture released by the North's official KCNA news agency on Friday. North Korea put its rocket units on standby on Friday to attack U.S. military bases in South Korea and the Pacific, after the United States flew two nuclear-capable stealth bombers over the Korean peninsula in a rare show of force. (Courtesy REUTERS/KCNA) North Koreans including soldiers attend a rally in support of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's order to put its missile units on standby in preparation for a possible war against the U.S. and South Korea, in Pyongyang March 29, 2013, in this picture released by the North's official KCNA news agency on Friday. North Korea put its rocket units on standby on Friday to attack U.S. military bases in South Korea and the Pacific, after the United States flew two nuclear-capable stealth bombers over the Korean peninsula in a rare show of force. (Courtesy REUTERS/KCNA)

It is easy to become frustrated as one reviews the inventory of seemingly failed or inadequate policy recommendations for how the United States might more effectively deal with North Korea. But frustration cannot be allowed to turn into fatalism, and important interests should not fester unattended until they metastasize into an even larger problem that will inevitably require even more dramatic, bold, and costly responses. Read more »

Assessing the First Park-Abe Summit

by Scott A. Snyder
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) talks with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye (R) during their meeting at the presidential house in Seoul, South Korea, November 2, 2015. Park and Abe agreed on Monday to try to resolve as soon as possible a row over "comfort women" forced into prostitution in Japanese wartime military brothels, a feud that has been a major obstacle to better ties between two of Washington's key allies. Abe announced the agreement after the first formal talks between the two leaders since both took office, as they seek to move beyond a bitter wartime history that has haunted relations. (Courtesy REUTERS/Song Kyung-Seok/Pool) Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) talks with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye (R) during their meeting at the presidential house in Seoul, South Korea, November 2, 2015. Park and Abe agreed on Monday to try to resolve as soon as possible a row over "comfort women" forced into prostitution in Japanese wartime military brothels, a feud that has been a major obstacle to better ties between two of Washington's key allies. Abe announced the agreement after the first formal talks between the two leaders since both took office, as they seek to move beyond a bitter wartime history that has haunted relations. (Courtesy REUTERS/Song Kyung-Seok/Pool)

For the first time in over three years, leaders of China, Japan, and South Korea converged on Seoul for a trilateral summit. As host, South Korean Park Geun-hye also held bilateral meetings with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. The reestablishment of the China-Japan-South Korea trilateral summit along with commitments by the leaders to once again regularize the summit process was a reward for months of South Korean diplomatic effort to restore the talks as one antidote to rising regional rivalries and conflict over historical issues in Northeast Asia. Nevertheless, the first bilateral meeting between Park and Abe failed to yield anything tangible beyond the appearance of improving relations between the two sides. Read more »

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 »