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Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

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Showing posts for "Inter-Korean Relations"

Has North Korea Shut the Door to Diplomacy?

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korean President Park Geun-hye visits Arlington National Cemetery near Washington. (Yuri Gripas/courtesy Reuters) South Korean President Park Geun-hye visits Arlington National Cemetery near Washington. (Yuri Gripas/courtesy Reuters)

North Korea’s efforts to legitimize itself as a nuclear weapons state and its cut-off of access to the Kaesong Industrial Complex have diminished prospects for peaceful coexistence on the Korean peninsula. American and South Korean tolerance of North Korean provocations has waned, and it is increasingly clear that strategic patience in dealing with North Korea may only result in increasingly unattractive options.  When they meet today, Presidents Park and Obama must pursue an even more closely coordinated effort to change the North Korean leadership’s calculus sooner rather than later or North Korea’s capacity to impose higher costs and burdens on the allies will only grow. Read more »

Kaesong Closure and the U.S.-South Korea Summit

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korean vehicles return from the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea to the customs, immigration, and quarantine office just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas. (Lee Jae-won/courtesy Reuters) South Korean vehicles return from the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea to the customs, immigration, and quarantine office just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas. (Lee Jae-won/courtesy Reuters)

The muting of North Korean threats toward the United States has dropped it from the American headlines in recent weeks, but stepped up inter-Korean tensions over the closure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) have consumed the time and attention of South Korean policymakers. Since April 3 Pyongyang has blocked the entry of South Korean people and goods for the complex and on April 9 withdrew its North Korean workers. In response, South Korea issued an ultimatum on April 25 demanding that Pyongyang agree by that day to negotiations on renewed access to the site. KIC hosts 123 South Korean companies, provides employment for 53,000 North Korean workers, and generates labor and tax payments to North Korea, which in 2012 amounted to $90 million in cash payments. (For an excellent review of Kaesong’s history and development, see Patrick Cronin’s CNAS report “Vital Venture.”) Read more »

Secretary Kerry’s First Visit to Northeast Asia: Rolling the North Korea Stone Back Up the Hill

by Scott A. Snyder
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (C) walks with U.S. Ambasador to South Korea Sung Y. Kim (L) and deputy director general of South Korea's Foreign Ministry Moon Seoung-hyun upon his arrival at a military airport in Seongnam, south of Seoul, April 12, 2013. Kerry begins a three-day visit to Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo as U.S. and South Korean officials say the nuclear-armed North appears poised to test a medium-range missile after weeks of threatening statements. (Kim Hong-ji/courtesy Reuters) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (C) walks with U.S. Ambasador to South Korea Sung Y. Kim (L) and deputy director general of South Korea's Foreign Ministry Moon Seoung-hyun upon his arrival at a military airport in Seongnam, south of Seoul, April 12, 2013. Kerry begins a three-day visit to Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo as U.S. and South Korean officials say the nuclear-armed North appears poised to test a medium-range missile after weeks of threatening statements. (Kim Hong-ji/courtesy Reuters)

Secretary of State John Kerry’s first visit to Northeast Asia came against the backdrop of increasing tensions stoked by North Korean evacuation announcements and missile-launch threats.  His meetings with new leaders Park Geun-hye, Xi Jinping, and Abe Shinzo succeeded in changing the tone of the conversation about North Korea from a military to a diplomatic focus and to strengthen  diplomatic consultation processes with new administrations in South Korea and China, but it remains to be seen whether there will be substantive shifts in the respective policies of the various governments. Read more »

What Is North Korea’s Next Threat Likely to Be?

by Scott A. Snyder
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) presides over an urgent operation meeting on the Korean People's Army Strategic Rocket Force's performance of duty for firepower strike at the Supreme Command in Pyongyang, early March 29, 2013. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) presides over an urgent operation meeting on the Korean People's Army Strategic Rocket Force's performance of duty for firepower strike at the Supreme Command in Pyongyang, early March 29, 2013. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters)

Given the threat-a-day nature of North Korean actions in recent weeks, I have noticed that many of the media headlines on North Korea are including the word “again.”  I can almost imagine North Korea’s repetition of threats turning into a college drinking game. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 29, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presides over an urgent operation meeting on the Korean People's Army Strategic Rocket Force's performance of duty for firepower strike at the Supreme Command in Pyongyang on March 29, 2013. (Courtesy Reuters/KCNA) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presides over an urgent operation meeting on the Korean People's Army Strategic Rocket Force's performance of duty for firepower strike at the Supreme Command in Pyongyang on March 29, 2013. (Courtesy Reuters/KCNA)

Sharone Tobias and Will Piekos look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. North Korean belligerence: Kim Jong-un and his militaristic regime have ratcheted up tensions on the Korean peninsula (again), this time unilaterally severing the inter-Korean military hotline. The move comes along with increased rhetoric, as North Korea declared that its strategic rocket and long-range artillery units “are assigned to strike bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor troops in the U.S. mainland and on Hawaii and Guam and other operational zones in the Pacific as well as all the enemy targets in South Korea and its vicinity.” The United States responded by flying two nuclear-capable stealth bombers over the Korean peninsula. And so the tit-for-tat continues… Read more »

Countering North Korean Brinkmanship

by Scott A. Snyder
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) visits the Wolnae Islet Defence Detachment in the western sector of the front line, which is near Baengnyeong Island of South Korea March 11, 2013. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters) North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) visits the Wolnae Islet Defence Detachment in the western sector of the front line, which is near Baengnyeong Island of South Korea March 11, 2013. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters)

I have an op-ed on CNN.com that explains North Korea’s historic patterns of brinkmanship and analyzes whether the current, more extreme round of threats is par for the course or is something new.  My original title for the piece was “What is Behind North Korean Threats,” but CNN named it “Why the North Korea Regime is Scary?” Read more »

South Korea’s Nuclear Debate and the Credibility of U.S. Extended Deterrence

by Scott A. Snyder
The guided missile destroyers USS Lassen (DDG 82) and USS Fitzgerald (DDG62) are seen at a South Korean naval port in Donghae, about 190 km (118 miles) east of Seoul, March 9, 2013. (South Korean Navy/courtesy Reuters) The guided missile destroyers USS Lassen (DDG 82) and USS Fitzgerald (DDG62) are seen at a South Korean naval port in Donghae, about 190 km (118 miles) east of Seoul, March 9, 2013. (South Korean Navy/courtesy Reuters)

North Korea’s third nuclear test last month unleashed an active South Korean debate on nuclear weapons acquisition along with calls for the reintroduction of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to deter and strengthen the U.S. and ROK position in nuclear negotiations. (The debate was nicely summarized here by Toby Dalton and Yoon Ho-jin). South Korea has also displayed its determination to counter any perceived North Korean advantage that might allow it to use nuclear blackmail against South Korea.  As the decibel level of North Korea’s threats has reached unprecedented levels, South Korea has also shown a grim determination to match North Korea’s threats with its own clear and specific signals of resolve. Read more »

UN Sanctions and North Korea

by Scott A. Snyder
Members of the United Nations Security Council vote to tighten sanctions on North Korea at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, March 7, 2013. In response to North Korea's third nuclear test, the U.N. Security Council voted on Thursday to tighten financial restrictions on Pyongyang and crack down on its attempts to ship and receive banned cargo in breach of U.N. sanctions. (Brendan McDermid/courtesy Reuters) Members of the United Nations Security Council vote to tighten sanctions on North Korea at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, March 7, 2013. In response to North Korea's third nuclear test, the U.N. Security Council voted on Thursday to tighten financial restrictions on Pyongyang and crack down on its attempts to ship and receive banned cargo in breach of U.N. sanctions. (Brendan McDermid/courtesy Reuters)

The unanimous passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2094 builds on prior UN Security Council resolutions 1695, 1718, 1874, and 2087 in opposing North Korea’s drive to expand its nuclear and missile delivery capabilities.  Each of the UN Security Council resolutions were passed following North Korean long-range rocket launches or nuclear tests.  These resolutions were designed to cut off flows of nuclear and missile technologies between North Korea and the outside world and to signal international disapproval of North Korea’s nuclear-related activities. Read more »

Presidential Inbox: A Strategy to Counter North Korea’s Nuclear Defiance

by Scott A. Snyder
U.S. President Obama speaks during a joint news conference with South Korea's President Lee at the Blue House in Seoul. (Yuriko Nakao/courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Obama speaks during a joint news conference with South Korea's President Lee at the Blue House in Seoul. (Yuriko Nakao/courtesy Reuters)

Mr. President, your first administration played “small ball” with North Korea. The policy of “strategic patience” succeeded in weathering North Korean provocations and limited exposure to the political risks that would have accompanied a high profile effort to address North Korea’s nuclear development.  However, the crime and punishment approach to North Korea’s 2009 satellite launch and nuclear test through UN Security Council sanctions, statements, and resolutions has failed to stop North Korea’s growing nuclear and long-range delivery capabilities. Read more »

A New Opportunity for China-South Korea Relations Under Park Geun-hye and Xi Jinping?

by Scott A. Snyder
China's Vice Foreign Minister Zhang shakes hands with South Korea's conservative President-elect Park during their meeting at her office in Seoul. (Kim Hong-ji/courtesy Reuters) China's Vice Foreign Minister Zhang shakes hands with South Korea's conservative President-elect Park during their meeting at her office in Seoul. (Kim Hong-ji/courtesy Reuters)

Following an early ambassadorial visit and a courtesy call on President-elect Park Geun-hye from China’s special envoy Vice Minister Zhang Zhijun, Park has decided to reciprocate by sending her first special envoys to Beijing during the transition. The exchange illustrates a mutual recognition that Sino-South Korean relations had deteriorated under Lee Myung-Bak and Hu Jintao and that Park and Xi have a chance to start out on the right foot this time. (See-Won Byun and I review the respective South Korean and Chinese leadership transitions over the last four months in detail here alongside parallel assessments of inter-Korean relations and U.S.-ROK relations by Aidan Foster-Carter and Victor Cha and Ellen Kim.) Read more »