Korean Endgame: A Strategy for Reunification and U.S. Disengagement

By Selig S. Harrison | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 25
Korea, Japan, and the United States

CZARIST RUSSIA, the Soviet Union, and now the Russian Federation have all regarded the Korean peninsula as the focal point of their geopolitical and strategic interests in Northeast Asia. Moscow is dismayed by the marginalization of Russian influence in Korea that has taken place since the end of the cold war and is likely to seek a restoration of its role as a major player there in future decades.

In Russian eyes, the United States has done its best to make sure that the Russian Federation is marginalized by building American policy in Northeast Asia around China and Japan and by excluding Moscow from diplomatic initiatives related to Korea that affect Russian interests, notably the 1994 nuclear freeze agreement with North Korea. While it is true that the United States has ignored Russian concerns in Korea during the past decade, the principal reason for the decline in Russian influence there is not what the United States has done but rather what Russia has failed to do. Weakened by its internal economic and political turmoil, the Federation has been unable to project significant economic and military power in the peninsula. Nevertheless, in fashioning its future policies, the United States will face insistent pressures from Russia for recognition of its right to have a voice in major power decisions relating to Korea. Indeed, in the absence of Russian cooperation, the United States would be unable to implement the proposals for denuclearization and neutralization of the Korean peninsula put forward in earlier chapters.


THE TRAUMA OF 1905

In contrast to China and Japan, with their ancient cultural and political ties to Korea, Russia did not become deeply involved in the peninsula until 1860, when Czar Alexander II acquired the Maritime Territories from China. This extension of the empire gave Moscow an eleven-mile common border with Korea. Initially Russia focused only on commercial objectives, seeking to control gold mining and other mineral concessions in the northern part of the peninsula. But its ambitions gradually expanded as the disintegration of the Ching dynasty in China and factional

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