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U.S. Policy Toward the Korean Peninsula: Report of a CFR-Sponsored Independent Task Force

Speakers: Charles L. "Jack" Pritchard, President, Korea Economic Institute; Former Ambassador and Special Envoy for Negotiations, Democratic People's Republic of Korea; Co-Chair, Independent Task Force on U.S. Policy Toward the Korean Peninsula
Evans J.R. Revere, Senior Director, Albright Stonebridge Group; Member, Independent Task Force on U.S. Policy Toward the Korean Peninsula
Scott A. Snyder, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Korea Studies, Council on Foreign Relations; Director, Independent Task Force on U.S. Policy Toward the Korean Peninsula
Presider: David E. Sanger, Chief Washington Correspondent, New York Times
Introductory Speaker: Anya Schmemann, Task Force Program Director, Council on Foreign Relations
June 16, 2010

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CFR's Scott Snyder discussed the March 26 sinking of the South Korean corvette, Cheonan, which South Korea charges was caused by a North Korean torpedo. While response to conflict on the Korean Peninsula and internal succession concerns have been posited as reasons for the attack, Snyder said, "One of the main reasons for this was that the North Koreans felt, realized, that South Korea was kind of moving forward without the North in its own diplomacy, and it was essentially a signal to the South: Don't leave us behind."

Addressing the potential for change in China's policy toward North Korea, Asia expert Evans Revere argued, "Chinese policy toward North Korea is still the preservation of stability more than anything." However, he noted that "a number of Chinese and a number of Chinese newspapers have come out in fairly stark and strident terms to criticize North Korea, both in terms of its nuclear development and other developments." This development, Revere said, "gives us some hope that perhaps we can continue to attack this issue with the Chinese and get them to move another few steps in a more positive and cooperative direction."

Comparing the Obama administration's policy on North Korea's nuclear program with its policy on Iran's program, Charles Pritchard, president of the Korea Economic Institute, claimed that the administration "made a determination that in the near and medium term, Iran is more problematic even though the similarities, or differences, between the programs are very distinct and unique." Pritchard argued that North Korea poses a problem that must be addressed today. "Unless we're engaging them across the board on all these issues on a today basis, an urgency basis, we're going to find that North Korea in tomorrow's threat is far greater than Iran," he said.

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