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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"

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 »

The Obama-Xi Summit And Renewed Inter-Korean Dialogue

by Scott A. Snyder
U.S. President Barack Obama meets Chinese President Xi Jinping at The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California June 7, 2013.(Kevin Lamarque/courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama meets Chinese President Xi Jinping at The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California June 7, 2013.(Kevin Lamarque/courtesy Reuters)

When the United States and China move closer to each other, leaders of the two Koreas are apt to start talking. An unanticipated side effect of Nixon’s rapprochement with China in the early 1970s was that both Kim Il-sung and Park Chung-hee established secret talks in response to a new strategic reality in which their respective patrons had established dialogue. Those talks led to a landmark inter-Korean joint declaration on July 4, 1972. Although the Obama-Xi Sunnylands summit was advertised as an introductory session not designed to produce deliverables, one indirect effect of the summit is that it has jumpstarted inter-Korean dialogue. The first working-level inter-Korean talks between the Park Geun-hye and Kim Jong-un leaderships is being held at Panmunjom nearly simultaneously with the Xi-Obama summit. 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 »

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 »

Park Geun-hye’s Leadership and South Korea’s Challenges

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korea's president Park Geun-hye speaks to the nation at the presidential Blue House in Seoul March 4, 2013. (Lee Jae-Won/courtesy Reuters) South Korea's president Park Geun-hye speaks to the nation at the presidential Blue House in Seoul March 4, 2013. (Lee Jae-Won/courtesy Reuters)

In the first month since Park Geun-hye’s inauguration as South Korea’s first woman president, she faced an external security environment that she characterized the day after her election as “grave.” In addition, her administration has gotten off to a slow start due to unexpected internal constraints associated with a government reorganization plan that has been hung up in South Korea’s National Assembly. CFR’s Program on U.S.-Korea Policy is featuring two parallel essays by prominent South Korean scholars that provide deeper analysis of the internal and external challenges Park faces as president. Read more »

Troy Stangarone: Prospects for the U.S.-Korea Alliance Under Park and Obama

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder
South Korea's new President Park Geun-hye talks with U.S. White House National Security Advisor Thomas E. Donilon during their meeting at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, February 26, 2013.(Lee Jin-man/courtesy Reuters) South Korea's new President Park Geun-hye talks with U.S. White House National Security Advisor Thomas E. Donilon during their meeting at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, February 26, 2013.(Lee Jin-man/courtesy Reuters)

Troy Stangarone is the senior director of congressional affairs and trade at the Korea Economic Institute of America. He was also a Council on Foreign Relations international affairs fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

New administrations have an opportunity for fresh starts. Under presidents Lee Myung-bak and Barack Obama, U.S.-South Korea (ROK) relations developed a level of cooperation that was arguably the closest the alliance has ever shared. This was in contrast to the weakening of South Korea’s ties with its neighbors. Relations with China frayed while those with North Korea deteriorated to an historic low. The incoming Park Geun-hye administration hopes to reverse these trends, but North Korea’s successful nuclear and missile tests present near term obstacles to starting anew with Pyongyang and has left regional actors adopting familiar positions. Read more »

South Korea’s New President Park Geun-hye: Heralding Hope Amidst Tough Realities

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korea's new President Park Geun-hye speaks during her inauguration at the parliament in Seoul February 25, 2013. Park, daughter of former military dictator Park Chung-hee, became the first female president of South Korea on Monday. (Kim Hong-ji/courtesy Reuters) South Korea's new President Park Geun-hye speaks during her inauguration at the parliament in Seoul February 25, 2013. Park, daughter of former military dictator Park Chung-hee, became the first female president of South Korea on Monday. (Kim Hong-ji/courtesy Reuters)

South Korea’s new President Park Geun-hye took the oath of office today as South Korea’s first female president, the first Korean president to have previously lived in the Blue House, and the first Korean president to have visited North Korea prior to her term in office.  In her inauguration address, Park vowed to “open a new era of hope” in the face of a global economic crisis and North Korea’s nuclear threat.  She pledged a “creative economy” based on scientific and IT innovation, a “new paradigm of tailored welfare” and a merit-based society that enforces social justice through effective rule of law, a Korean cultural renaissance, and step-by-step efforts to build trust-based diplomacy with North Korea and with South Korea’s other partners. Read more »