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Showing posts for "Scott A. Snyder"

Kerry and the Diplomatic Dead End With North Korea

by Scott A. Snyder
kerry-in-beijing U.S. secretary of state John Kerry walks off after a news conference in Beijing on February 14, 2014. Kerry urged the Chinese to use “all of the means of persuasion that they have” to achieve a denuclearized North Korea (Evan Vucci/Courtesy Reuters).

Secretary of State John Kerry’s first visit to Northeast Asia last April was consumed with near-term crisis management since it coincided with the peak of regional tensions driven by North Korea’s provocative rhetoric. In contrast, his second visit to the region last week occurred against the backdrop of apparent easing of inter-Korean tensions and afforded a better environment for long-term coordination toward North Korea. Unfortunately, the visit appears to have illuminated the dead ends the administration faces on denuclearization of North Korea rather than showing a way forward. Washington has placed its bet on pressure from Beijing as the best hope for turning Pyongyang back to denuclearization, but Kerry’s conversations in Bejing raise questions about whether this route can really succeed. Read more »

Overcoming the Japan-South Korea Historical Identity Complex

by Scott A. Snyder
abe_park Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korea's President Park Geun-hye link hands during the family photo at the ASEAN Plus Three Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan on October 10, 2013. (Ahim Rani/Courtesy Reuters)

This blog post was co-authored with Brad Glosserman, executive director of Honolulu-based Pacific Forum CSIS. A version of this post also appeared as a Pacific Forum CSIS PacNet publication, and can be found here.

The announcement that China has cooperated with South Korea to open a memorial hall in Harbin in honor of Ahn Jung-geun, the independence activist who in 1909 assassinated Hirobumi Ito, Japanese colonial governor of Korea (then a Japanese protectorate), symbolizes the historical obstacles to forward-looking Japan-South Korea relations. The ensuing controversy reflects divergent views of history – one man’s terrorist is another’s “freedom fighter” – but this incident also illuminates a deeper, and more compelling, dimension of the split between Japan and the ROK as it is currently framed: contradictory conceptions of national identity that stand in the way of reconciliation steps necessary to improve relations. Read more »

North Korea’s Test of Trustpolitik

by Scott A. Snyder
park-geun-hye-newyears South Korean president Park Geun-hye speaks during her New Year news conference at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on January 6, 2014. (Jung Yeon-Je/Courtesy Reuters).

South Korean president Park Geun-hye came to office last year pledging a policy of trustpolitik designed to promote inter-Korean reconciliation through principled engagement while holding North Korea to account. The Economist suggested the policy should be named “distrustpolitik,” asserting that “the south does not trust the north to keep its promises; the north does not trust the south to follow through on its admonitions.” Both sides took the measure of each other last year during the closure and reopening of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, the industrial park in North Korea that combines North Korean labor with South Korean capital to produce goods to export internationally. That experience provides a valuable lesson for inter-Korean relations. Read more »

New Year’s Greetings From Kim Jong-un

by Scott A. Snyder
new-years-2014-in-pyongyang Fireworks explode in the sky over Pyongyang as part of New Year celebrations in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency. (KCNA/Courtesy: Reuters)

From fireworks over the Potonggang to the inauguration of a mysteriously newly procured ski lift at Masikryong Pass, North Korea’s leaders have undertaken great efforts to project a return to normalcy and the façade of unity under the Party’s leadership, progress in economic development, and the strengthening of national defense. These themes were reflected in Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s Day address, which annually sets the tone and states the priorities of the North Korean leadership. The speech focused on practical steps to improve North Korea’s domestic economy across a wide range of sectors under the Party’s centralized leadership. “Factional filth” of uncle Jang Song-taek is gone; keep calm, labor on. Read more »

North Korean Leadership Tremors: Catalyst for U.S.-ROK-China Cooperation?

by Scott A. Snyder
park-and-xi-in-beijing-june2013 South Korean president Park Geun-hye and Chinese president Xi Jinping agreed to push for new talks with North Korea at their first meeting on June 27, 2013 in Beijing. Following recent news of internal political upheaval in Pyongyang, coordinating the direction of South Korea-China-U.S. cooperation is all the more important (Wang Zhao/Courtesy Reuters).

I participated last Friday morning in a perfectly timed, wide-ranging panel discussion hosted by The Korea Society and named in honor of Robert A. Scalapino, formerly Professor of Political Science at UC Berkeley. (Bob was an excellent mentor, gentleman, and scholar-diplomat, in addition to being the broadest and deepest scholar on Asian politics of his generation.) Read more »

Kim Jong-un’s Post-Jang Song-taek Foreign Policy Void

by Scott A. Snyder
hu-and-jang-in-2012 Prior to his dismissal, Jang Song-taek was seen as a proponent of increased business ties with China. Here, Jang (L) shakes hands with Hu Jintao, then president of China, in Beijing on August 17, 2012 (China Daily/Courtesy: Reuters).

Following the drama of Jang Song-taek’s humiliation at a Korean Workers’ Party conclave and execution following a military tribunal last week, the next big question for foreign observers is what the implications are likely to be for North Korea’s relations with its neighbors. China’s perception of Jang as an economic partner may make Beijing unsure of their relationship with Pyongyang in the near term, and the consolidation of power under Kim Jong-un will make Seoul likewise wary of working with the young leader. Read more »

The Removal of Jang Song-taek

by Scott A. Snyder
jang-song-taek-ousted North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (L) and North Korean politician Jang Song-taek (R) attended a commemoration event for the Korean People’s Army in Pyongyang July 25, 2013. Jang’s dismissal from senior party posts was confirmed at a December 8, 2013, meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Korean Workers’ Party. (Jason Lee/Courtesy: Reuters)

There is nothing like a good purge to spark off speculation about the future of an opaque totalitarian regime like the one in North Korea. The problem, of course, is that unless one knows what is going on inside the leader’s head (a tough task for even the most seasoned analyst) events are impossible to predict and exceedingly difficult to explain. Read more »

Biden’s Bet on a South Korea Squeezed on All Sides

by Scott A. Snyder
biden-and-park-in-seoul South Korean President Park Geun-hye shakes hands with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden before their meeting at the presidential Blue House in Seoul December 6, 2013. (Ahn Young-joon/Courtesy Reuters)

Joe Biden wasted no time in affirming American security assurances to South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye during his meeting in Seoul, stating that it has “never been a good bet to bet against America . . . and America will continue to place its bet on South Korea.” Read more »

Challenges in Designing an Effective North Korean Human Rights Policy

by Scott A. Snyder
refugee-interview-photos North Korean refugees provide some of the mounting evidence against systemic human rights abuses in North Korea. Here, one refugee shows pictures of his family in North Korea. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy Reuters).

There is no more vexing issue than the challenge of how to support the improvement of human rights in North Korea, a country that has consistently ranked at the bottom of international indices rating human freedom around the world.  The U.S. Congress passed the North Korea Human Rights Act almost a decade ago, the United Nations has appointed a rapporteur to examine the human rights situation inside North Korea for almost as long, and the Korean Institute for National Unification has published an ever-growing annual white paper on North Korean human rights since 1996.  This year the UN Human Rights Council appointed a Commission of Inquiry that has held public hearings in Seoul, Tokyo, London, and Washington, DC; the commission will report back to the UN Human Rights Council with its assessment and recommendations by spring of next year.  But the stream of North Korean refugee testimony to unspeakable atrocities and evidence of systemic abuses inside North Korea continues to grow. Read more »

The Economic Costs of North Korean Nuclear Development

by Scott A. Snyder
Kim Jong-un, here at the May 11 Factory, is taking a greater interest in economic reforms that may impact the international trade prospects for North Korea. Kim Jong-un, here at the May 11 Factory, is taking a greater interest in economic reforms that may impact the international trade prospects for North Korea (KCNA/Courtesy Reuters).

International sanctions have thus far failed to convince North Korean leadership that they cannot survive as a nuclear weapons state.  With its policy of simultaneously pursuing economic and nuclear development, North Korean leaders clearly assume they can manage the economic costs resulting from nuclear development. But the costs of such a policy are staggering compared to the economic benefits North Korea might enjoy without nuclear weapons. Comparing the estimated costs of the nuclear program to economic growth with the benefits of becoming a normal economy integrated with its neighbors reveals the steep price of the byungjin policy. Read more »