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Council on Foreign Relations Korea Update April 2015


South Korea Plays Its Middle Power Role

South Korea has increasingly sought a middle power role in Asia and the international arena. In this East Asia Institute Working Paper, Scott Snyder, senior fellow for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, examines how the future of South Korean foreign policy will largely be shaped by Korea’s perception of itself as a middle power. He argues that Korea’s middle power diplomacy has reinforced the U.S.-South Korea alliance, but future tensions, driven by larger political shifts, may yet arise.  Read more at East Asia Institute »

Safety and Science Drive U.S.-South Korea Nuclear Cooperation

South Korean and U.S. negotiators are on the verge of concluding a new bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement to replace the current outdated one. This new agreement will undoubtedly be criticized by some in South Korea because it does not give Seoul unconditional approval to enrich uranium or reprocess spent fuel. But such narrowly focused criticism is misplaced, writes Snyder. In a post coauthored with Toby Dalton, codirector of the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; and Miles Pomper, senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, the authors explain that such censure overlooks the importance of the agreement to Korea’s energy security and the future of its nuclear program. Read more at Asia Unbound »

South Korea Debates Nuclear Energy Strategy

South Korea, like its neighbors Japan and China, is reevaluating its energy vulnerability and security. The country’s domestic debates are focused on where nuclear fits in its energy portfolio and spent-fuel management issues, says Snyder. On March 31, Snyder spoke at a roundtable, “Energy Security Worldviews in Asia,” at the George Washignton University Sigur Center for Asian Studies along with Mike Mochizuki, associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University; and Robert Sutter, professor of the practice of international affairs at George Washington University. The panel was moderated by Deepa Ollapally, research professor of international affairs and associate director of the Sigur Center. Listen to audio from the roundtable here (mp3) »

THAAD: A Zero-Sum Decision for Korea

While Washington seeks Seoul’s permission to deploy Theater High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile systems in South Korea for enhanced defense against North Korea, Beijing has vociferously objected, claiming THAAD is a thinly veiled U.S. attempt to contain China. In a post for CFR’s Defense in Depth blog, Clint Hinote, U.S. Air Force colonel and military fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, argues that South Korea’s domestic debate over THAAD reveals a critical moment faced by the small nation, which may well affect its future role in East Asia.  Read more at Defense in Depth »

A Middle Power Shrimp Among Pacific Whales

Last month’s decision by South Korea to seek a stake in the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) reinforced the nature of diverging U.S.-China relations and calls South Korea’s middle power diplomacy into question. Upcoming decisions for South Korea—including THAAD missile defense and its negotations over a free-trade agreement with China—signal that Korea’s role as a middle power will continue to be challenged as long as relations between Beijing and Washington remain confrontational, writes SnyderRead more at Asia Unbound »

Attack on U.S. Ambassador in Seoul Highlights Ideological Division

The March 5 attack on U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert by a nationalist Korean activist who opposes the U.S.-ROK joint military exercises highlights the tension between progressive and conservative factions in Korea, writes Snyder. In an op-ed for CNN, Snyder concludes that the public outcry following the attack on Lippert reflects enduring South Korean support for the U.S.-ROK alliance. Read more at Asia Unbound and CNN » Read more »

Media Mentions

Yonhap (Korea), “‘U.S.-Korea Nuclear Cooperation Agreement Will Benefit South Korea,’ U.S. Experts Say ” (March 31, 2015)

Korea Times, “All Eyes on THAAD Decision After South Korea’s Participation in AIIB” (March 27, 2015)

Sisa Journal (Korea), “When We Had ‘Arguments About North Korean Followers,’ They Talked About ‘Self-Control’” (March 18, 2015)

YTN Radio (Korea), “‘Is the U.S. Opinion Too Apologetic for the Ambassador Lippert Attack?’ Asks Le Monde Diplomatique Editor Im Sang-hoon” (Korean) (March 11, 2015)

Dong-a Ilbo (Korea), “Retaliation Is Inevitable if Classified as ‘Terror.’ U.S. Labels It as an ‘Attack’” (March 9, 2015)

Seoul Shinmun (Korea), “Extreme Behavior of an Individual Will Strengthen U.S.-Korea Alliance” (March 7, 2015)

Yonhap (Korea), “U.S. Experts: ‘Senseless Attack by a Radical Individual Will Not Affect U.S.-Korea Relations’” (March 6, 2015)

Arirang, “U.S. Secretary of State Calls Lippert Attack ‘Senseless’” (March 6, 2015)

Hankyoreh (Korea), “Attack on U.S. Ambassador: Upset Korea, Calm United States” (March 6, 2015)

Herald Media (Korea), “Paradox of Terror, ‘Opportunity’ for Strengthening U.S.-Korea Alliance?: Diplomatic War With Regard to the Terror” (March 6, 2015)

Munhwa Ilbo (Korea), “Shocking Reminder of ‘Korea Tensions’ Demonstrates the Divide in Public Opinion” (March 6, 2015)

Segye Ilbo (Korea), “Unexpected Behavior of an Extreme Leftist Will Not Deter U.S.-Korea Alliance” (March 6, 2015)

National Post, “‘It’s Hard to Get Lost in North Korea’: Toronto-Area Pastor Feared Detained After Disappearing on Aid Mission” (March 3, 2015)

Maeil Business Newspaper (Korea), “Japanese ClubThat Lobbied Sherman to Side With Japan” (March 2, 2015)



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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