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Brad Glosserman and Scott Snyder as the dinner speakers.

Monday, 18 May, at 19:00 – 21:309780231171700

The Army & Navy Club, Farragut Square, Washington DC

 

The Policy Dinner Club is proud to announce that its next speakers will be Brad Glosserman (Pacific Forum CSIS) and Scott Snyder (CFR), who will speak about the identity and cultural issues in the Japan – South Korea bilateral relationship, with regard to US alliance dynamics. A dinner discussion will then ensue on the topic offered.

Their remarks will draw from their research of their book, which examines the ideational and identity-identity-related causes of discord between these two strong US allies. In their remarks at dinner, Glosserman and Snyder will examine some of the underlying notions of national identity and offer concrete policy prescriptions for US alliance managers.

Who:     Brad Glosserman (Pacific Forum CSIS), Scott Snyder (CFR)
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When:   19:00 to 21:30, 18 May, 2015
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Where:  The Army and Navy Club, Farragut Square, Washington DC
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Speakers Biographies

Brad Glosserman is executive director of the Pacific Forum CSIS in Honolulu, an independent program of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The Pacific Forum has provided policy-oriented analysis and promoted dialogue on regional security, political, economic, and environmental issues in the Asia-Pacific region since 1975. Mr. Glosserman oversees all aspects of Pacific Forum activities, including conferences, fellowships, publications, and administration. He is coeditor of Comparative Connections, the Pacific Forum’s triannual journal and writes, along with Pacific Forum president Ralph Cossa, the regional review. He is also the coauthor, with Scott Synder, of The Japan-South Korea Identity Clash (Columbia University Press, 2015), a study of national identity in Japan and South Korea and its impact on U.S. alliances. He recently completed a three-year study with Pacific Forum director of programs Carl Baker on the future of U.S. alliances in Asia and is finalizing a study on the impact of the March 11, 2011, “triple catastrophe” on Japan.

Scott Snyder is senior fellow for Korea studies and director of the program on U.S.-Korea policy at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), where he had served as an adjunct fellow from 2008 to 2011. Snyder’s program examines South Korea’s efforts to contribute on the international stage; its potential influence and contributions as a middle power in East Asia; and the peninsular, regional, and global implications of North Korean instability. Snyder is co-author of The Japan-South Korea Identity Clash: East Asian Security and the United States (Columbia University Press, 2015). He also the co-editor of North Korea in Transition: Politics, Economy, and Society (Rowman and Littlefield, October 2012), and the editor of Global Korea: South Korea’s Contributions to International Security (Council on Foreign Relations, October 2012) and The U.S.-South Korea Alliance: Meeting New Security Challenges (Lynne Rienner Publishers, March 2012). He served as the project director for CFR’s Independent Task Force on policy toward the Korean Peninsula. He currently writes for the blog, “Asia Unbound.”


Obama’s Pivot to Asia: 2014 and Beyond

4 June, 2014

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Leaving on a Jet Plane

It was late at night as Air Force One taxied to a halt at Narita Airport in Tokyo to kick off an extended Presidential visit to the region. Emerging from the aircraft, President Obama seemed determined to impress upon the region and Japan his personal commitment to the Asia Pacific. Deemed a ‘reassurance tour’, the President’s trip to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines was meant to ‘underscore a continued focus on the Asia Pacific region and commitment to his vision of rebalancing to the world’s largest emerging region,’ in the somewhat wooden phrasing of the White House.

Despite the President’s many statements to the contrary, over the next few days, it was clear to many analysts and journalists that the trip was meant to reassure US allies over growing Chinese assertiveness. Chinese media like the Xinhua railed against the trip and the wider policy of ‘containment’. The US “rebalancing strategy”, the Xinhua wrote hours after Obama’s plane touched down at Narita, “smacks of a carefully calculated scheme to cage the rapidly developing Asian giant by rallying US allies”.  The Global Times quoted the Chinese Ambassador to Washington as saying the “rebalancing to Asia policy may need some ‘rebalancing’ so that the United States can maintain a good relationship to every nation in the region,” a not-so-subtle warning.

Missing the Point

Unfortunately, Chinese pundits missed the greater point in their haste to see rebalancing as simple containment and only a small number of analysts reported on the US rebalancing as a response to Chinese behavior. One such pundit, Yang Hengjun, a former diplomat and Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council posed the question, ‘why are China’s neighbor’s so afraid of her’ in a regional forum, and though his efforts are laudable, he fails to connect Beijing’s problems with its policies, and instead blames the China’s media for hubristic statements that offend and scare neighbors. This neatly moves responsibility away from the military, CNOOC, and the Chinese leadership who have been promoting expansionism in the East and South China Sea maritime disputes. This attempt to forge a ‘CNN effect with Chinese characteristics’ rather reveals the constraints under which political analysts must be written in Beijing.

Japan and ROK

Despite the claims of the Global Times and others to the contrary, the trip was a success. And it was a success for one simple reason. It did what it said on the label. The president had gone to personify and symbolize US commitment to its allies in their various disputes with China and this was done. The United States’ reiterated its political and military support for the current status quo, and stated firmly that changes could only come peacefully and through diplomacy. Obama’s visit to Japan gave Prime Minister what he had long wanted, a presidential assurance that the Senkaku Islands (disputed with China) fell within the remit of the US-Japan security alliance. In return, Obama emphasized that Japan’s role as a regional force for stability would be enhanced by ‘collective self-defense’, a point that shows that the defence commitments of the alliance now cut both ways.

While some pundits have argued that Abe had done little more than take the President to a great sushi bar, giving little on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) front, this overlooks the primary reason for the trip and overstates the need for the TPP to be negotiated within its present time-table. Others – such as Kent Calder, a noted scholar on Japan – have argued that behind the diplomatic niceties between Obama and Abe, the chasm between Washington and Tokyo has become incredibly wide, particularly on history and nationalism issues. Whatever the case, it is clear that Abe and Obama shared a single agenda for this trip: to consolidate the alliance in the face of regional insecurity, and avoid open bickering. This they managed to do, though it is a small victory.

Obama’s pressure on Abe to deal with the ‘comfort women’ issue was rewarded in Seoul as President Park Guen-Hye presented a warm welcome to the President. Days before his visit, the reputable Asan Institute published a survey saying that 93% of South Koreans saw the alliance with the US in a positive light. High strung North Korean media attempts to brand the visit as one by a ‘pimp’ to his ‘crafty prostitute’,[6] only seemed to reaffirm Pyongyang’s isolation and inability to be taken seriously. Despite or perhaps because of warnings from Obama and Park, the awaited 4th nuclear test failed to materialize in the days up to and after the summit. Truly, the visit was marred by the Sewol ferry disaster, which was then boiling over into a cabinet reshuffle; events around the Russian annexation of the Crimea also took precedence. As expected, the latter event caused ripples of disquiet among US allies, concerned about Washington’s military commitments. If anything, however, Russian behavior only served to reinforce the need for the US alliance system.

Malaysia: Symbolically Substantive

Arguably, Obama’s trip to Malaysia was the smoothest as the US rebalance was openly welcomed by Malaysia’s leadership. In a press conference hosted by Prime Minister Najib, the two men agreed to elevate the bilateral relationship to a Comprehensive Partnership, agreeing on the interdiction principles of the PSI, and continuing to work on increased military interoperability. As with Japan, Malaysia has begun to edge closer to the US as Beijing’s claims have hardened in the maritime sphere. On the other hand, as with Japan, this has yet to bring home the TPP bacon and the President was again disappointed on the TPP front. However, his mood must have been lifted during the ‘town hall meeting’ with a number of Malaysia’s young people as he was greeted with screams of “We love you, Obama”, a reminder of his potent charisma and links to the region. In an East West paper, Elina Noor at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) argues that this was where the real power of Obama’s visit to Malaysia lay – his ability to connect with people. For those who remember the criticism endured by the Bush administration in the region, his ability to connect has been a welcome one.

Last but not least

The final visit of the reassurance tour was to the Philippines, perhaps the place most in need of reassuring. Long-suffering at the hands of Chinese encroachment in the South China Sea, Manila was relieved that Obama’s statement that “…nations and peoples have the right to live in security and peace, to have their sovereignty and territorial integrity respected”, was supported by a new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. The new defence pact gave US forces greater access to patrol Philippine waters, and though US forces have eschewed basing rights, it is likely that both Japan and the United States will work to increase coast guard and naval Philippine capabilities.

The real question of course, is how did Obama’s reassurance trip affect China? What has the balance does to deter China from seeking to forcefully change the status quo? The answer to that is unfortunately ‘not much’, as can be seen by Beijing’s establishment of an oil rig in Vietnamese waters in the days following Obama’s return to Washington. There is very little self-awareness amongst the Chinese leadership and that in itself is most worrying. Relying on ‘the century of humiliation’ narrative, China’s media continues to defend expansionism from US ‘bullying’. If rebalancing to Asia does not deter China, what policy should replace rebalancing? “How do we deal toughly with our banker”, as Hilary Clinton once asked. What policies should the US adapt after a future Sino-Vietnamese naval conflict. The US and other regional states have oft told themselves that China cannot be contained, and that is probably true, but it can be restrained. It is really a question of making Beijing pay an economic and political price for its aggressive actions towards US allies. What comes after ‘rebalancing’? What indeed.


Arguing Against a Peace Treaty on the Korean Peninsula

East Asia Forum

August 10th, 2013

Sixty years after the end of the Korean War, it has become an article of faith among some policy-makers that a peace treaty between the United States and North Korea would help ease tensions on the Peninsula.

Often, reflecting North Korean propaganda statements, these policy makers explicitly link US troop withdrawals on the Korean Peninsula to a treaty ending the war. Such narratives generally state that a peace regime would assuage North Korea’s security concerns and get the Six-Party Talks back on track. A recent article in China’s Global Timesmakes this very argument, and though convincing it ultimately rests on faulty assumptions.

First, a US peace treaty at this stage would implicitly act as a symbol of recognition that the United States accepts North Korea’s status as a nuclear power. While some may argue that that horse has already left this particular barn, the United States simply cannot explicitly or implicitly accept a nuclear North Korea. It would undermine the non-proliferation treaty even further than it has already been and could shatter South Korean/Japanese confidence in the US nuclear umbrella. While this may not disturb regional powers like Russia and China, it should. Such a loss in confidence would undermine the current balance in deterrence and could ultimately lead to Seoul and Tokyo seeking nuclear weapons for themselves. In April this year, while on a visit to Washington, M.J Chung, a South Korean politician, claimed that the South might have to develop its own deterrent. Finally, accepting the North’s nuclear status may well encourage North Korea’s provocation-in-exchange-for-aid strategy.

Second, the peace regime argument assumes that North Korea’s decision to develop nuclear weapons derives purely from ‘insecurity’. Dig deeper, and there is the further assumption that North Korea’s insecurity derives from external forces — the result of pressure from the combined forces of the United States and South Korea. While it is true that North Korea’s decayed military forces are outmatched by the forces arrayed south of the Demilitarized Zone, the simple fact is that the North already has a weapon of deterrence: artillery. Seoul’s proximity to North Korean artillery has always meant that the North could obliterate the city within five minutes, a danger that has stayed the hand of US–ROK forces many a time during previous periods of hostility. Furthermore, the US has offered a number of written and spoken guarantees – long demanded by the North – as a part of its efforts in the Six Party Talks process, including seven by President Obama since 2009.

But are external factors the only reason for Northern insecurity? One could argue that all totalitarian states are inherently unstable and suffer from massive internal insecurity. After all, they require large amounts of capital for internal security forces, propaganda and ideological social training. Some argue that the percentage of secret police and their informers to population is larger than the Stasi to population in East Germany during the height of the Cold War.  Totalitarian regimes are expensive to run, after all. In other words, North Korea’s insecurity is also self-created and stems from the regime type of the country as much as it does the regional geopolitical situation. The case of Vietnam shows that other choices are possible for the North: Hanoi has successfully managed to adopt economic reforms, while forging a new relationship with the United States, all while remaining a nominally communist-run state.

If Pyongyang’s insecurity is derived from the unaffordability of its system, why does it not enact economic reforms to ease the lives of its citizens and pay off the bureaucracy? While it has tried small incremental reforms over the years, and there are signs of a small middle class in Pyongyang, it has always rolled these back because of the fear that reforms would create a strong entrenched merchant class, which would call for political rights. Economic opening would lead to political opening, and the general population would become aware of the economic and political success of South Korea, surely a regime-killer in any scenario. Despite proclamations of systematic superiority, North Koreans would learn that their fellow Koreans in the South live a life which is nearly 18 times wealthier. This fear  of the effects of economic reform, explain the 2009 currency reform, which destroyed the savings of the   emerging merchant class in the country. Pyongyang is systematically unable to fully reform its economy in the way that Beijing and Hanoi have managed. Thus, North Korea is impelled to rely on external support to prop itself up.

While North Korea’s rulers realise that they cannot accept economic reform, they also know that the economy is in critical condition. Without a strong economy, internal security and the military become weaker and private markets sap the regime of its legitimacy as the sole provider of resources to the population. Despite the development of special economic zones with China, these have had limited success. Indeed, the relationship between the two is increasingly characterised by extractive policies by Beijing on the North’s resource base. Naturally, Pyongyang also realises this, and knows that without nuclear weapons it has a strong chance of simply becoming a Chinese resource–client state.

It must be clear to the ‘Dear Successor’: Nuclear weapons are more than just providing security from ‘foreign forces’ for the North. They also provide the only way for the North to squeeze aid from China, the United States and its allies while avoiding economic reform. The most recent nuclear test and bellicose rhetoric show that Pyongyang is becoming increasingly desperate for that aid. The silence from Washington must be puzzling. But with its hand slapped away, the Obama administration has played it cool, deciding it would ‘not buy the same horse twice’. Chinese patience with Pyongyang now also appears to be slipping. On a visit to the North to mark the 60th anniversary of the Armistice, Chinese Vice-President Li stressed regional stability in his remarks to Kim Jong-un. Financial figures published before his visit underscored China’s testiness: PRC–DPRK trade has plummeted 13.6 per cent between June and January.

A Peace Treaty sounds like the right thing to do. It sounds like the sane and humane thing to do. However, unless a peace treaty were explicitly tied to denuclearisation, it would only act as a means of legitimising the regime’s nuclear status. It would also enable the North to continue pressuring the region to bankroll what is the world’s least efficient form of government. And it would continue the suffering of a great many North Koreans.

Surely, that’s a price too high to pay?


A Cold War Response to North Korea’s Latest Challenge

CNN, 13 Feb, 2013

As the dust settles from a third – more effective and miniaturized – North Korean nuclear test, the question rings out: what do they want? What are the intentions of Kim Jung-un, the newest, and youngest version of the Dear Leader?

The timing is of course, everything. Setting the test for the day of President Obama’s State of the Union is not random luck. It puts pressure exactly where pressure is wanted: in Washington. As the Obama Whitehouse doubtless received the news in the early hours of the morning, they will have been scrambling to find out what ‘we do we know?’ They will also have been fending off calls from the Post, the New York Times, countless news agencies, along with more than a few concerned Senators and Congressmen. The message from the latter will no doubt have sounded something like the following, ‘what are you doing about this?’ The call will be to act, but how, what, and where? Doubtless the Obama team will be as stumped as the rest of the agitated diplomats rushing around the United Nations Security Council.

Hemmings says U.S. should work overtime to bring impartial news to N. Koreans. (Image: Border town of Sinuiju on Feb. 13)Of course, the Chinese diplomats in the UNSC will be concerned, but unlike their Japanese, South Korean, and American colleagues, they’ll probably remain seated. They’ll have firm orders from Beijing to keeping emotions from boiling over. They may even water the sanctions down. As if they needed to. Any sanctions imposed, would doubtless lose meaning, as the mornings trains began their daily shipment of goods and fuel across the DPRK/PRC border. Xi Jingping, China’s new leader, may want a ‘new relationship’ with the United States, but that doesn’t mean that Washington’s strategic concerns are China’s.

And if we didn’t already know what Pyongyang wants, the Obama team will no doubt call on DPRK-watchers from the CIA, the State Department, and the DOD, all of whom will say what they’ve been saying for years. North Korea wants (in order of importance): (1) regime survival (2) acceptance as a nuclear power by the US (3) a peace treaty between the US and North, (4) trade and economic growth on their terms, and hey, if we can (5) Korean unification under Pyongyang’s benign rule. Of course, Obama’s team will have been told about the ‘provocation cycle’, that unfortunate fact that the US and its allies will sit down to the table with North Korea within six months of any provocation. Why will they do it? Because of the heat generated within Washington, the demands to ‘do something’, and to allay regional fears that Uncle Sam’s security guarantees are fraying.

So what can the Obama team do, if sanctions are ineffective and if a military response is out of question? Well, they can learn the art of pressure from their opponents in this. But, of course, the question is what makes Pyongyang squirm? It clearly isn’t sanctions on luxury goods, as these have failed to deter endless missile tests. The answer to that riddle lies in the recent histories of the Cold War, in which we learnt the impact of free information on Soviet citizens behind the Iron Curtain.  Information is the greatest weapon at the disposal of the Obama team and they should apply it liberally. The North Korean people are their greatest ally, and should be messaged accordingly. According to a 2011 Intermedia report on North Korean susceptibility to outside media, radio and DVDs are the most common way for normal North Koreans to hear media from the outside world.  The Obama team should not look to its diplomats in New York for salvation, but rather to Langley, and to USFK’s best and brightest.

Each time Pyongyang ratchets up the pressure, Washington should reply in kind by smuggling in 150,000 DVDs about the free world outside North Korea’s humble borders. Radio stations should work overtime to bring impartial news about the world to the hapless citizens, who still live in the Cold War, while the rest of us move on. Let’s not let the pressure be one-way. American newspapers and senators may tremble about a North Korean nuclear-tipped bomb, but certainly young Kim must tremble too at the prospect of his citizens awash in the streets, their eyes open to the nature of their lot.


International Stabilization and Reconstruction and Global Korea

Asia Unbound, November 15th 2012

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South Korea’s stabilization efforts in Afghanistan have not gained a lot of prominence in the Western media, but they are arguably one of the great successes of recent ROK overseas policy and deserve international recognition. The decision, made this September, to extend South Korean involvement in the Afghan theatre for one more year, demonstrates Seoul’s determination to continue its contribution to the stabilization efforts of International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) and NATO troops and to solidify its Global Korea posture.

However, it is not yet clear if the next administration in Seoul—to be elected this December—will seek to maintain South Korea’s stabilization and reconstruction (S&R) activities as described in CFR’s new ebook Global Korea. It is not beyond South Korea’s capacity to develop the skill sets required for these missions, since they have already – to some extent – begun the process of acquiring and honing them for the last two years building and maintaining a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Parwan Province, Afghanistan. However, carrying out S&R work under securitized conditions is a historically unusual activity for South Korea, and much will depend on how South Koreans view the net gain of such operations.

Keeping military personnel in, what are commonly described as, ‘traditional’ roles is a basic assumption of any global military. These traditional roles include war-fighting, defense of state sovereignty, internal security, and, over the last century, disaster relief. Two areas added to this list of functions in the past fifty years have been peacekeeping and stabilization and reconstruction. While disaster relief, peacekeeping, and S&R share commonalities (a high level of civil-military engagement), they have pose different levels of security threats. Of the three, S&R activities are commonly agreed to as having the highest risk factor for deployed personnel since, by its function, development work takes place while a conflict is still on going.

South Korea has three reasons for wanting to carry out stabilization activities. In no particular order, they are: a function of their alliance commitments to the United States; a realization of ROK sense of obligation to ”international society”; and a potential tool necessary in any collapsed regime scenario involving North Korea. (Michael J. Finnegan highlights the potential benefits of South Korea’s S&R activities to the U.S.-ROK alliance in the event of North Korean instability in U.S.-ROK Alliance: Meeting New Security Challenges). According to interviews with South Korean diplomats, development workers, and military personnel conducted this past year, all three factors played a part in the decision to deploy the PRT in Parwan, and were a result of fortuitous timing with South Korean internal politics and internal U.S. alliance dynamics. Whether South Korea wants to retain this capability is essentially a political decision and difficult to predict.

However, should a new South Korean president decide to keep S&R, what do ROK government agencies have to do to maintain this capability? As the involved agencies of the United States and the United Kingdom have learned, S&R is difficult to maintain, requiring intense training and adaption of force postures to the unique practicalities required. Here are some basic recommendations:

  • South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) should set stabilization as a core mission alongside war fighting and peacekeeping
  • South Korea should send bi-ministerial research teams (consisting of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and MND personnel) to the United States, the United Kingdom, and NATO Centres of Excellence to look at how those entities maintain this function
  • The Ministry of National Defense and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) should establish a joint department training facility, staffed jointly by MND, MOFAT, and Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) personnel. As well as running courses for pre-deployed personnel, the facility could also host visiting scholars and practitioners from the international community which deals with stabilization activities
  • MND and MOFAT should also create S&R units within their ministries, whereby they may contain these functions. Alternatively, the MND could add these functions to the Evergreen PKO unit
  • South Korea should establish a taskforce to establish how best to deal with the operational and planning difficulties presented by stabilization at the bureaucratic level. For example, there is the ‘joint unit’ system as in the United Kingdom’s Stabilization Unit, or the ‘coordination function’ system such as the American Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations
  • The Korean Institute for Defense Analyses and the Korean National Defense University should be allocated research grants for building programs that carry out S&R research and contain S&R fellows

Global Korea: South Korea’s Contribution to International Security

Council of Foreign Relations, October 2012

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The Korean peninsula often comes to mind as a global security flash point. The most recent reminders include North Korea’s April 2012 failed test of a multistage rocket and the November 2010 North Korean shelling of South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island. Given the seriousness of the ongoing standoff on the Korean peninsula, South Korea’s emergence as an active contributor to international security addressing challenges far from the Korean peninsula is a striking new development, marking South Korea’s emergence as a producer rather than a consumer of global security resources. This volume outlines South Korea’s progress and accomplishments toward enhancing its role and reputation as a contributor to international security.

Contents Overview Scott A. Snyder Korea and PKO: Is Korea Contributing to Global Peace? Balbina Hwang South Korea’s Counterpiracy Operations in the Gulf of Aden Terence Roehrig The ROK Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan John Hemmings Counterproliferation and South Korea: From Local to Global Scott Bruce Publisher Council on Foreign Relations Press

Release Date October 2012 Price$10.00 100 pages ISBN 978-0-87609-542-3

PacNet Number 26

Lessons Learned? Responding to North Korea’s Latest Provocations

Co-written with Dongjoon Park, this PacNet is based on the findings of a simulation that took place at a Pacific Forum CSIS conference in Seoul October 14-15, 2011, and can be found at here.

Once again, North Korea is increasing tensions in Northeast Asia. The launch on April 13 is part of a cycle of calculated North Korean provocations. However, it seems that the US, South Korea, and Japan scrambled to respond with the same strategies that have failed them in the past. China’s blocking of any meaningful response was as predictable as it was effective.

For Pyongyang, the launch served several purposes. It celebrated North Korea becoming a ‘strong and prosperous nation’ in 2012. It commemorated the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth. The launch also underscores the ‘great successor’ Kim Jong Un’s leadership in front of the party leadership, the Korean People’s Army (KPA), and the people. It is an attempt to set the terms of future negotiations with the international community. Finally, and most of all, the launch lets the North set the regional agenda, putting other countries in the region on the back foot.

hp.02.20.13.ClintonNorthKorea

Given the repetitive nature of this cycle, experts have been predicting such a North Korean provocation for nearly a year. As early as last October, a group of Pacific Forum CSIS Young Leaders convened in Seoul to conduct a simulation based on a hypothetical satellite test (which also went wrong). These young professionals were divided into groups representing the US, South and North Korea, Japan, and China to develop reactions and identify obstacles hindering a coherent and coordinated response. The key lessons from that simulation were as follows:

China cannot be relied upon: With its massive investment, aid packages, and resource trade with Pyongyang, Beijing is presumed to have the most influence on North Korea. The US has since the ‘90s sought China’s help in dealing with the North. The simulation found that China will never take the US side: it won’t destabilize a regime that it supports, and in which it has so much at stake. Anything that destabilizes North Korea could affect Chinese economic growth, and the Chinese strategy is to preserve the North and eventually lever the US out of the Korean Peninsula. China is, at best, a stumbling block; at worst, part of the problem. Therefore, China should be increasingly sidelined during crises (though not publicly, of course). When China tries to help, it can be acknowledged, but otherwise, it should not, and will not be central to any solution.

Japan and Korea do not cooperate: If China cannot be relied upon, the only solution is for the US, South Korea, and Japan to work together on North Korea. Despite their mutual interests in solving the North Korean problem, this is unlikely. There are several reasons, some historical, some geopolitical. They can and must be overcome by the part played by the US.

Seoul is torn: Seoul’s cultural ties and physical proximity to the North mean that, when it is not under direct threat, it views the North differently from its allies. In cases like the launch, South Korea is more concerned with making sure the situation doesn’t spiral out of control than with making the North pay for its provocation. The technology being tested is not, in any case, likely to be targeted at South Korea. With a range of 4,000 miles, these rockets are more likely to be aimed at Japan and the continental United States. South Korea’s desire to play a regional balancing role also means that it favors moderation when not directly threatened.

Japan must be reassured: While Japan would seem to be less directly threatened by a rogue North Korea, the Japanese have much at stake. North Korea’s rhetoric about Japan’s historical misdeeds and its past successes in separating and isolating Japan worry policy makers in Tokyo. The debate on reforming Japan’s military posture is directly linked to how Japan perceives its sense of security. The US must work to assuage this strategic insecurity to prevent Japan pursuing independent options. The US must push South Koreans to take Japanese insecurity seriously.

The US needs to lead: The simulation found that both South Korean and Japanese teams expected the US to lead in a crisis; not to coordinate, but to lead. The US must decide on a goal and lead the other two allies toward that goal. The security perceptions differ too greatly between Seoul and Tokyo, and only Washington has the muscle and the authority to decide on a policy direction. In the course of normal discussions, both Koreans and Japanese may complain about Americans being too assertive or controlling. When a crisis emerges (even a simulated one), they still look to Washington to lead. The US must push Seoul to recognize Japanese security concerns and away from its moderate stances during these occasions.

North Korea can manipulate the situation with ease: The strategic calculations of the neighboring countries foster an environment that is vulnerable to North Korean provocations. North Korea reaps maximum benefits through such actions with little or no consequences.

If it wishes to stop North Korean provocations, the US must take three clear steps: One, it should not rely on China to solve the problem. The idea that China would help the US deal with Pyongyang has been disproven in almost every crisis, with even China openly questioning its ability to exert influence. Certainly, Beijing should be consulted, but it should not be seen as a key to solving problems with North Korea. Second, the US needs to lead its allies during these crises. It is the superpower and should act like it. The US must prioritize trilateral diplomatic and military cooperation. Japan must realize South Korea’s reasons for moderation during crises are real and immediate. This may mean breaking its silence on sensitive Korean-Japanese bilateral issues. Third, working with its allies and without China, the US will have to find a way to influence North Korea directly. Previously, it has sought economic punishment as the only non-kinetic tool in its toolbox. This has failed as Chinese investment in North Korea has grown over the last two years.

Sanctions are not the only possibility however. The US has barely touched one of the possible tools in its arsenal: information. The US and its allies must take the initiative and find a non-kinetic way of making North Korea pay a price for its actions. While there are many reasons for the USSR’s final collapse, one critical cause was that it lost the war of ideas to the US. This collapse occurred because ordinary citizens could see the inequalities in living standards between themselves and party apparatchiks. This inequality is even more pronounced in North Korea. The US didn’t fight the USSR: it fought its ideals and showed them to be false. That same lesson should be applied here.

Given Pyongyang’s paranoia about opening up and its desire to control information, it is clear that this is a vulnerability. US intelligence agencies should carry out an information campaign consistently and heavily after every North Korean provocation. Videos containing South Korean television shows, and pop culture could be smuggled in, with the logic that overt political messages are less effective than lifestyle-content. After the Yeonpyong island shelling, Seoul increased such efforts, scattering not only leaflets that introduce the Arab Spring movements, but also everyday products such as medication and clothing. After the first of these campaigns, North Korean leaders would think twice about future provocations, since they would have paid a price for their actions. While sanctions may be a punitive tool in some cases, they have not deterred North Korea because they were a price the regime was willing to pay. Can Pyongyang afford to let uncontrolled information trickle through to its population? We should find out.

Jeremy S. Maxie

Energy & Political Risk Consultant

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A Blog Focused on Bringing Policy and Chinese language Translations Relating to Separatists and Terrorism

playwithlifeorg

4 out of 5 dentists recommend this WordPress.com site

HarsH ReaLiTy

A Good Blog is Hard to Find

Variety as Life Spice

Words by a post-90s in Hong Kong

THE ALT TO THE ALT

★ KURTBRINDLEY.COM ★

Foreign Policy

the Global Magazine of News and Ideas

The top 10 of Anything and Everything!!!

The top 10 of just about anything everything, from cakes to cats and dogs to caravans. Always a laugh, always worth seeing.

Eleanor Robinson-Yamaguchi

Specialist in Japanese History and Culture

ABDALLAH ATTALLAH

Futurist | Disruptor | Coach | Reformer

Anglo-Japan Alliance

A new type of alliance

Small House Bliss

Small house designs with big impact

Europe Asia Security Forum

European perspectives on Asian security, and vice-versa

Shashank Joshi

Royal United Services Institute | Harvard University

secretaryclinton.wordpress.com/

A PRIVATE BLOG DEVOTED TO FOREIGN POLICY & THE SECRETARY OF STATE

epiphany

some thoughts on life

Adventures in (Post) Gradland

Thoughts on life after the PhD

springdaycomedy

Just another WordPress.com site

James Strong

Junior academic working on British foreign policy

Justice in Conflict

On the challenges of pursuing justice

Politics: Middle East

an analysis of the contemporary middle east

Sino-NK

Sino-NK is a research website for Sinologists and Koreanists.

Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos