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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 "U.S.-ROK Relations"

South Korea and Vietnam Between Beijing and Washington

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korea's President Park Geun-hye (L) shakes hands with her Vietnamese counterpart Truong Tan Sang after a news briefing at the Presidential Palace during her official visit in Hanoi on September 9, 2013. (Luong Thai Linh/courtesy Reuters) South Korea's President Park Geun-hye (L) shakes hands with her Vietnamese counterpart Truong Tan Sang after a news briefing at the Presidential Palace during her official visit in Hanoi on September 9, 2013. (Luong Thai Linh/courtesy Reuters)

One of the most dramatic effects of China’s economic rise has been the potential strategic dilemma facing South Korea (and the other countries in East Asia), as it depends on relations with China as a major source of economic growth while it still relies on Washington for security. As reflected in President Park Geun-hye’s discussion of the “Asian paradox” and her Northeast Asian cooperation proposals, South Korea’s strategic preference is to avoid having to make a choice between Washington and Beijing. Therefore, South Korea has a major stake in good China-U.S. relations. Nonetheless, what are the hypothetical circumstances under which South Korea would make a strategic choice in favor of China over the United States? Read more »

Big Decisions Facing South Korea’s New Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korean Admiral Choi Yun-hee (2nd L, front) talks with officers in front of launch pad equipped with cruise missiles on South Korean Navy's Aegis destroyer Sejong on the sea off Busan, southeast of Seoul February 14, 2013. (courtesy Reuters) South Korean Admiral Choi Yun-hee (2nd L, front) talks with officers in front of launch pad equipped with cruise missiles on South Korean Navy's Aegis destroyer Sejong on the sea off Busan, southeast of Seoul February 14, 2013. (courtesy Reuters)

South Korea’s National Assembly confirmed for the first time this week a naval officer, Admiral Choi Yun-hee, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). Given the historic dominance of the army in South Korea’s military, which once focused solely on deterring an all out land war with North Korea, Admiral Choi’s appointment corresponds to a widening scope in South Korea’s thinking about defense. This evolving outlook should help South Korea better address the country’s increasing interest in protecting maritime trade routes and challenges posed by rising regional maritime tensions in Asia. Read more »

Sixtieth Anniversary of the U.S.-ROK Alliance: Where Do We Stand?

by Scott A. Snyder
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (C) and South Korea's Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin (R) leave a welcoming ceremony at the headquarters of the Defense Ministry in Seoul October 2, 2013. (Kim Hong-Ji/courtesy Reuters) U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (C) and South Korea's Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin (R) leave a welcoming ceremony at the headquarters of the Defense Ministry in Seoul October 2, 2013. (Kim Hong-Ji/courtesy Reuters)

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spent four days in South Korea this week feting the sixtieth anniversary of the U.S.-ROK alliance, observing one the biggest South Korean military parades in a decade, and providing new direction to the alliance through a meeting with President Park Geun-hye and through his participation in the annual Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) with his South Korean counterpart. Secretary Hagel’s activities and the SCM highlighted the following main accomplishments and challenges for the alliance at sixty. Read more »

Korean Middle Power Diplomacy: The Establishment of MIKTA

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korea's Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se (R) and his Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa share a moment before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-South Korea Ministerial Meeting at the 46th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan on July 1, 2013. (Ahim Rani/courtesy Reuters) South Korea's Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se (R) and his Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa share a moment before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-South Korea Ministerial Meeting at the 46th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan on July 1, 2013. (Ahim Rani/courtesy Reuters)

Amidst the flurry of diplomatic consultations that focused on Syria and Iran among other issues at the UN General Assembly, five countries that consider themselves as newly emerging middle powers and G-20 members have banded together in a little-noticed move to form a new consultative group and to create a new acronym: MIKTA (Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey, and Australia). Read more »

Anniversary of Six Party Talks: Commemoration, Wake, or Revival?

by Scott A. Snyder
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the tenth anniversary of the Six Party Talks at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, September 18, 2013. (Jason Lee/courtesy Reuters) China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the tenth anniversary of the Six Party Talks at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, September 18, 2013. (Jason Lee/courtesy Reuters)

The Chinese government held an unusual commemorative ceremony this week to mark the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the Six Party Talks and the eighth anniversary of the Six Party Joint Statement. The Joint Statement at the time seemed vague and incomplete, but it turns out that the consensus forged in favor of Korean peninsular denuclearization, peace, diplomatic normalization, and economic development was a high-water mark for the talks. In light of North Korea’s repeated nuclear tests and its open rejection of its Joint Statement commitment to abandon nuclear weapons, the Six Party Talks have stalemated for five years. Now China is trying to revive the Joint Statement and breathe new life into the Six Party process. Read more »

Sean Connell: Lessons from KORUS for Japan and TPP

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
U.S. president Barack Obama and South Korean president Lee Myung-bak tour the General Motors Orion assembly plant in Detroit, Michigan—which produces the Sonic sub-compact car, a joint venture with GM Korea—following congressional approval of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement U.S. president Barack Obama and South Korean president Lee Myung-bak tour the General Motors Orion assembly plant in Detroit, Michigan—which produces the Sonic sub-compact car, a joint venture with GM Korea—following congressional approval of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement October 14, 2011 (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters).

The agreement by the eleven Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) member nations on April 22 to include Japan in their ongoing negotiations was a significant breakthrough, both for advancing the high-standard “21st century” regional trade agreement envisioned in TPP and for Japan’s quest to revitalize its economy. With Japan now formally participating in the negotiating rounds, TPP covers 40 percent of global GDP, increasing its potential to shape the Asia-Pacific regional economic environment and global trade rules. Read more »

North Korea’s Next Provocation: When and Why?

by Scott A. Snyder
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un salutes during a parade to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of a truce in the 1950-3 Korean War, at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang July 27, 2013. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un salutes during a parade to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of a truce in the 1950-3 Korean War, at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang July 27, 2013. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters)

Following an extended period of North Korean threats and inter-Korean tension during March and April of this year, North Korea prepared then abandoned a missile launch opting instead to shift back to charm diplomacy. Low-level inter-Korean talks over a possible restart of Kaesong drag on, as the North Korean leadership has turned its focus toward economic improvement, and Kim Jong-un presided over an unprecedented military “fatherland victory” parade to mark the sixteeth anniversary of the armistice in late July. But it would be a mistake to think that recent calm will be sustained. Read more »

The Korean Armistice: Sixty Years of “War By Other Means”

by Scott A. Snyder
A South Korean soldier stands guard as he faces the North Korea side at the border village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas. (Wally Santana/courtesy Reuters) A South Korean soldier stands guard as he faces the North Korea side at the border village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas. (Wally Santana/courtesy Reuters)

This weekend President Obama will commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the war fight on the Korean peninsula. But in so doing, he will have no choice to acknowledge that the war has not ended despite dramatic changes in both the international context and local conditions on the Korean peninsula. In my own thinking about the significance of an enduring armistice alongside dramatic changes surrounding the Korean peninsula, I found Sheila Miyoshi Jager’s new book Brothers at War particularly useful. Read more »

China and the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korean president Park Geun-hye (R) and Chinese president Xi Jinping inspect Chinese honor guards during a welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing June 27, 2013. Park is on a visit to China from June 27 to 30. (Wang Zhao / courtesy Reuters) South Korean president Park Geun-hye (R) and Chinese president Xi Jinping inspect Chinese honor guards during a welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing June 27, 2013. Park is on a visit to China from June 27 to 30. (Wang Zhao / courtesy Reuters)

People’s Republic of China president Xi Jinping has taken a noticeably stronger rhetorical stand against North Korea’s nuclear program since he came to office in March on the heels of North Korea’s third nuclear test on February 12, 2013. China backed a new UN Security Council resolution condemning North Korea’s test and clearly distanced itself from North Korea, in contrast to its decision to embrace and defend North Korea as a strategic asset following North Korea’s second nuclear test in 2009. There has been a slowdown in high-level contacts with Kim Jong-un and a striking chilliness to Sino-DPRK interaction following meetings in July and November 2012 between Kim Jong-un and high-level Chinese officials in Pyongyang. Last week DPRK Vice Minister held a “strategic dialogue” with his PRC foreign ministry counterpart Zhang Yesui that was devoid of the party-to-party interaction that has long made China-DPRK interactions “special” rather than “normal.” Read more »

North Korea’s Defiant Proposal for Denuclearization Talks

by Scott A. Snyder
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) poses with troops of Korean People's Army Unit 405 at an undisclosed location. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) poses with troops of Korean People's Army Unit 405 at an undisclosed location. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters)

Only one week after proposing and then pulling the plug on inter-Korean dialogue over protocol differences, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea)’s National Defense Commission on June 16 issued a surprise proposal for “high-level” U.S.-DPRK talks on easing of military tensions, establishment of a peace regime, and “various other issues both parties want to address, including the building of a nuclear-free world proposed by the United States.” Read more »