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00707012
2011.6
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KOREAN

KF Forum on ‘U.S. Policy in Asia’ The 34th Session Features CSIS Policy Specialists  The Korea Foundation Forum’s 34th session, held April 28 in Seoul, was dedicated to the perennially paramount question of “U.S. Policy in Asia.” Holding forth were three leading experts from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C.: President John Hamre, Korea Chair Victor Cha, and Japan Chair Michael Green.

Former government officials, Washington insiders, and leading scholars in their fields, the CSIS group portrayed today’s strong U.S.-Korea and U.S.-Japan alliances as the stabilizing pillars of East Asia’s security architecture, and looked forward to enhanced trilateral cooperation. They spoke of the rise of China as “a cloud on the horizon,” although they left open some sliver of hope that things will improve after a rocky 2010 in U.S.-China relations. On North Korea, which occupied much of the question and answer period, all three did not pretend to have a magic bullet; rather, they defended the current policy of “strategic patience” as the least-bad alternative, and criticized the role of China.

Role of China and the North’s Provocations

Hamre opened with a meditation on the implications of the rise of China. He claimed that Barack Obama
inherited a “good framework” for Sino-U.S. cooperation from George W. Bush, but that Beijing had
become a “cause for concern” due to well-publicized incidents of the past year maritime disputes
in the Yellow Sea, Senkaku Islands, and the South China Seas, siding with North Korea over the
Cheonan sinking and Yeonpyeong attack, and clamping down on democracy. Hamre surmised that
China’s assertiveness stems from the contradictions inherent in a closed, rigid authoritarian
government ruling over a dynamic, complex society and economy. Washington’s grand stra-
tegy toward China’s rise would be continued engagement with China while at the same
time strengthening bilateral security partnerships and seeking enhanced trilateral
coordination to boot. He closed by urging the audience not to fear the inevitable
reunification of the Korean Peninsula under South Korean leadership.

Victor Cha addressed U.S. policy toward Korea. He rehearsed the familiar narrative of lost opportunity in U.S.-DPRK relations due to North Korea’s provocations
– missile tests, nuclear tests, attacks on the South, uranium revelation – that have pushed Washington into its current policy of “strategic patience.” Cha presented an interesting argument that China’s support of North Korea is based on China’s demand for resources (North Korean iron, coal, and copper) as well as economic development of its northeastern provinces. He subtly compared Beijing and Pyongyang to “mutual

hostages,” unhappy with their economic and diplomatic interdependence, yet unable or unwilling to change it. Like the other experts, Cha emphasized that the U.S.-ROK alliance was at a high watermark, permeated by a deep level of trust.Michael Green drew on his experience on George W. Bush’s National Security Council team to draw an insightful contrast between U.S.-ROK and U.S.-Japan relations, then and now. Then, Japan was the constant, and South Korea was the question mark. Now, the ROK is the rock, and Japan relations are showing volatility. Green argued that, both then and now, the contrasts were overdrawn and oversimplified. Bush and Roh Moo-hyun’s

cooperation was in fact “highly productive” late in their presidencies; similarly, Green expects
Japan to rebound from its domestic challenges and also to maintain its place as the other
linchpin of U.S. “forward engagement and diplomacy in Asia.”

Time for Three-Party Talks
Ambassadors, journalists, and former cabinet officials peppered the CSIS team with questions.
Other than a question about nuclear safety cooperation, the discussion focused on North
Korea: How to persuade Pyongyang to give up nuclear deterrence? How does
President Obama look on the demand for an apology for Cheonan and
Yeonpyeong? How can the five parties cooperate to
leverage their strengths in influencing North Korea?
Cha and Green pulled no punches and gave no easy
answers. Themselves architects of the Six-Party Talks,
Cha and Green were pessimistic about its prospects,
leaning more toward further punitive action at the UN
Security Council. Yet they also recognized that the
status quo of a “runaway nuclear program” was untenable.
The session ended as it began, with criticism of China and
a call for enhanced trilateral coordination. CSIS President Hamre had the final word in noting that the Six-Party Talks had assumed that the United States and China saw the world in the same way. But today it’s different, and the Six-Party Talks is therefore impossible. It’s time now for three-party talks, Hamre concluded.

John Delury Professor
Yonsei University

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