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Korea Update June 2016: Pomp and Circumstance in Pyongyang

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Korea Update June 2016: Pomp and Circumstance in Pyongyang

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Kim Jong-un’s Coronation and North Korea’s Future

The seventh congress of the North Korean Workers’ Party held in early May was a carefully choreographed affair designed to show the world that its newly installed chairman, Kim Jong-un, is fully in control of the North Korean state. By taking the title of chairman, Kim has signaled that he is no longer reliant on the legacy of his father and grandfather, that he is determined to lead, and that he expects the world to accommodate his absolute leadership of a nuclear North Korea. However, Kim has not shown how he will gain international acquiescence to North Korea’s nuclear development or secure international support for North Korea’s economic growth, writes Scott A. Snyder, senior fellow for Korea studies and director of the U.S.-Korea Policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Read more on Asia Unbound »

China-Korea Relations: New Sanctions, Old Dilemmas

In response to North Korea’s latest provocations, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Park Geun-hye expressed support for full implementation of UN sanctions at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington. Their respective foreign ministers, Wang Yi and Yun Byung-se, also pledged their commitment to denuclearization at the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia in Beijing on April 27–28. At that conference, Xi declared that China “will absolutely not permit war or chaos on the peninsula.” Scott A. Snyder and See-won Byun, PhD candidate in political science at the George Washington University, write that, despite Beijing’s hardened rhetoric, current tensions on the Korean peninsula point to enduring differences between Beijing’s and Seoul’s strategic preferences. Read more in Comparative Connections »

Threats and Opportunities on the Korean Peninsula

The United States and its East Asian allies have many issues to consider in light of North Korea’s latest round of nuclear threats. During a discussion at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, Scott A. Snyder, Gheewhan Kim, South Korean consul general in New York, and Sue Mi Terry, BowerGroupAsia’s managing director for Korea, discussed the possibility of negotiations with Kim Jong-un, China's role, and the political effect of the threat on Seoul. Watch the event on UStream.TV »

The United States Can't Afford Trump's Policies Toward Northeast Asia

Woo Jung-yeop, research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, argues that abandonment of U.S. leadership in Asia cannot make America great again. Instead, it is likely to weaken U.S. leadership and irreparably and unnecessarily damage the United States’ strategic advantage. How much would the United States need to pay to rebuild the international order after it is destabilized? Is it worth abandoning its allies and partners? Woo writes that Republican front-runner Donald Trump should have asked these questions before advocating that the United States abandon its long-standing allies. Read more in The Diplomat »


The New Normal in Japan-Korea Relations

In December 2015, Japan and South Korea reached a historic settlement regarding the “comfort women” issue that had shackled relations between the countries for decades. In response to North Korea’s nuclear test in January 2016, both countries have vowed to increase security cooperation to contain the North’s nuclear threat. Scott A. Snyder, with professors Park Cheol Hee from Seoul National University, Ren Xiao from Fudan University, and Soeya Yoshihide from Keio University, discussed these issues at the Asan Plenum held in South Korea. Watch the event on »

Snyder on Japan-Korea Relations

In an episode of the podcast series Korea and the World, Scott A. Snyder discussed his latest book, The Japan-South Korea Identity Clash: East Asian Security and the United States, coauthored with Brad Glosserman, executive director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies Pacific Forum. Snyder discussed the two countries’ identities and perceptions of each other, the role that Japanese and Korean political leaders play in this context, the stakes that the United States has in this situation, and a possible way forward. Listen to the podcast on »

Brad Glosserman and Scott Snyder on Japan-Korea Relations

At the University of California, San Diego, Scott A. Snyder, with Brad Glosserman, executive director of the CSIS Pacific Forum, gave a talk on Japan-Korea Relations. Read more on North Korea: Witness to Transformation »


Why Trump’s Plan for Japan Would Be a Nightmare for Asia

Republican Party candidate Trump recently stated that, should he become president, he would consider ending the U.S. commitment to Japan’s defense and encouraging it to develop its own nuclear arsenal. Yet, a U.S. decision to abandon its commitment to Japan would create irreversible trauma for the only nation in the world that has experienced the use of weapons of mass destruction. Sheila A. Smith, senior fellow for Japan Studies at CFR, writes that urging Japan to "go nuclear" would change far more than the U.S. relationship with its long-standing ally; it would also stimulate a cascade of decisions that would profoundly alter the dynamics that have maintained peace in the Asia-Pacific for generations. Read more on Vox »

Looking Back to Look Ahead: The U.S.-Japan Alliance in Today’s Asia

President Barack Obama’s landmark visit to Hiroshima had lofty goals: he spoke not only about the catastrophic end to World War II, but also about the need to never use these weapons again. Nevertheless, writes Sheila A. Smith, given the evolution of ties between Washington and Tokyo and current tensions with Pyongyang and Beijing, Obama’s trip carries more immediate and strategic objectives to strengthen the long and vital U.S.-Japan partnership and guard against escalating conflict in the region. Read more on World Politics Review »

U.S.-Japan Relations: 2016 Opens With a Bang

The early months of 2016 were relatively steady for the U.S.-Japan relationship, until the U.S. presidential primaries began to stir the political air in Japan. For the first time in decades, Japan became the focus of debate on the campaign trail, and Trump began to single out Japan on trade and on security cooperation. To be sure, Japan had company as Trump took aim at all U.S. alliances, but his suggestion that the United States should simply let Japan and South Korea go nuclear shocked many, including Japan’s Foreign Minister Kishida Fumio, write Sheila A. Smith and Charles McClean, PhD student in political science at the University of California, San Diego. Read more in Comparative Connections »

A Personal Reflection on Today in Hiroshima

In a reflection on the president’s visit, Sheila A. Smith writes that President Obama reminded us why Americans should continue to visit Hiroshima. As Obama said, it is important to remember “the terrible force” that took the lives of over one hundred thousand men, women, and children, among them not only Japanese but also Koreans and even Americans held as prisoners of war. “Their souls,” he noted, “ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are, and what we might become.” Obama argued that wars fought throughout human history, by powerful and wealthy nations, affected “the innocents” most. And he reminded everyone that America’s future is a choice. In echoes of his first speech on to the necessity of a world without nuclear weapons, the president suggested that August 6, 1945, should be seen not as the “dawn of atomic warfare,” but as the “start of our moral awakening.” Read more on Asia Unbound »


Yonhap (Korean): (North’s Party Congress) Outsider Observers “Nuclear-Economy” Emphasis on the Byungjin Line . . . “Will Fail Because of Sanctions (May 7, 2016)

Yonhap (Korean): (North’s Party Congress) “Will Be Showcasing the Economic Area” Will an Important Announcement Come Out? (May 6, 2016)

Law Street: In North Korea, Due Process Is Virtually Nonexistent (May 3, 2016)

Yonhap (Korean): Trump’s “Alliance Bashing” Receiving Criticism and Skepticism Everywhere . . . Is An Alliance Deal Making? (April 30, 2016)


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 the South Korean private sponsor, Korea International Trade Association. It also acknowledges with thanks additional support received from individual donor Sandor Hau.

Scott A. Snyder, Director

Sungtae "Jacky" Park, Research Associate

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