Escalating tensions on the peninsula due to North Korea's recent provocations motivate Presidents Xi Jinping and Park Geun-hye to closely coordinate policies toward the North. However, Beijing's shifty stance on sanctions, an increase in Sino-DPRK economic exchanges, and the obstacles to China-South Korea-Japan trilateral cooperation impede North Korea policy alignment between Beijing and Seoul. Still, the willingness of both leaders to improve bilateral relations offers a silver lining, explain CFR's Scott Snyder and See-won Byun of George Washington University.
On the upcoming South Korean presidential election, Scott A. Snyder says the determining vote will be "South Korea's bulging forties cohort" that played a critical role in South Korea's transition from authoritiarianism to democracy and also has the greatest stake in its economic stability.
Despite an ongoing threat from North Korea, South Korea has emerged as a producer rather than a consumer of international security goods. As a newly elected member of the UN Security Council, South Korea has the opportunity to use these investments as a "middle power" and responsible leader in the international community, says Scott A. Snyder.
Scott A. Snyder and See-won Byun observe that while the twenty-year anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and South Korea may provide a pretext for more active diplomacy to meet a growing list of potential disputes in the relationship, high-level contacts between China and North Korea have stalled, dampening China's hopes for regional engagement.
Scott A. Snyder and See-won Byun say that uncertainties regarding a new North Korean leadership will create the context in which China, South Korea, and the United States must grapple with their future options for preserving stability in Northeast Asia.
North Korea's ratcheting up of tensions requires South Korean and U.S. military forces in Korea to be prepared to defend against North Korean military incursions. Resumption of diplomacy will only be possible when North Korea signals it is ready to resume dialogue and all parties agree on an agenda that includes both tension-reduction and denuclearization.
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