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Council on Foreign Relations Korea Update
November 2013

The U.S.-ROK Alliance at Sixty Years: Where Do We Stand?

U.S. secretary of defense Chuck Hagel's visit to South Korea last month highlighted the main accomplishments and challenges for the U.S.-ROK alliance at sixty. Scott A. Snyder, CFR senior fellow for Korea studies and director of the program on U.S.-Korea policy, writes that the alliance is considerably stronger today than it was at fifty, as the two countries have deepened their cooperation on North Korean threats and issues off the peninsula. However, some closely managed challenges still remain, including the transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) of South Korean forces, an ROK decision to pursue either an independent Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) system or a joint U.S.-Japan-ROK option, and strained ROK-Japan relations. Read the post on Asia Unbound ยป


South Korea's New Role in the World

Asia's Middle Powers?: New Book on the Identity and Policy of South Korea and Vietnam

South Korea and Vietnam often profess a "middle power" identity as they consider goals such as promoting regional peace, integration, and the common good as their main foreign policy objectives. Despite this similarity, the two countries are sufficiently different that a comparison yields insights. In addition to presenting a wide range of views on the concepts of middle power and national identity, the contributors to Asia's Middle Powers? offer an enhanced understanding of South Korea and Vietnam's regional behavior and international strategies. Read more »

Korea Launches Its "Middle Power Diplomacy"

At the UN General Assembly in September, five countries formed a new consultative group of emerging global powers known as MIKTA (Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey, and Australia). Although it is too early to predict whether this caucus of middle powers, which shares common interests in issues such as G20 governance, nuclear disarmament, and democratization, will survive in the long term, the cross-regional establishment suggests potential for increased cooperation. According to Snyder, MIKTA could widen South Korea's diplomatic aperture beyond its alliance with the United States and its focus on relations with its powerful neighbors—Russia, China, and Japan. Read the post on Asia Unbound »

South Korean Domestic Politics

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

On October 14, 2013, South Korea's National Assembly confirmed Admiral Choi Yun-hee as the first naval officer to chair the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Snyder argues that Admiral Choi's appointment corresponds to a widening scope in South Korea's defense strategy, which should help South Korea better address its increasing interest in protecting maritime trade routes and coping with rising regional maritime tensions. As part of his new responsibilities, Admiral Choi will also have to deal with a number of difficult procurement decisions, such as what type of next generation air fighter South Korea should acquire and the interoperability of KAMD with U.S. radar and missile defense capabilities. Read the post on Asia Unbound »

North Korea and Japan

Tokyo's Strategic Preparations

Through the repeated cycles of North Korean missile and nuclear testing, negotiations, and sanctions that have triggered international reactions, Japan has gradually lost ground it its effort to shape events on the Korean peninsula. Tokyo made some progress in direct negotiations with Kim Jong-il, most notably the visits to Pyongyang by Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro in 2002 and 2004, but with limited success in improving its strategic position. Since the succession of Kim Jong-un, Tokyo has put greater emphasis on military prepardness and strengthened its support for UN Security Council sanctions, writes Sheila A. Smith, CFR senior fellow for Japan studies. Read the article on »



CFR's Korea Program in the News

National Interest, "North Korea's Chemical Shop of Horrors" (September 13, 2013)

Diplomat, "Attacking Syria Won't Deter North Korea" (September 11, 2013)

Voice of America, "Top US Envoy to Seek Freedom for Citizen Jailed in N. Korea" (August 28, 2013)

China Daily, "US Envoy to Visit DPRK to Secure Prisoner's Release" (August 28, 2013)



The Program on U.S.-Korea Policy

The program on U.S.-Korea policy was established at the Council on Foreign Relations in September 2011. It aims to strengthen the U.S.-Korea relationship by providing relevant policy recommendations and promoting dialogue on sensitive bilateral, regional, and global issues facing the two countries. The program acknowledges the generous support it has received from the Smith Richardson Foundation, Korea Foundation, and South Korean private sponsors, including Hyundai Motors, Korea International Trade Association, and the Federation of Korean Industries. It also acknowledges with thanks additional support received from individual donor Sandor Hau.

Scott A. Snyder, Director
Follow @snydersas on Twitter

Darcie Draudt, Research Associate


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