Academic journal article The Journal of East Asian Affairs

The Prospects for U.S.-Dprk Relations and U.S.-Rok Coordination on the North Korean Policy

Academic journal article The Journal of East Asian Affairs

The Prospects for U.S.-Dprk Relations and U.S.-Rok Coordination on the North Korean Policy

Article excerpt


What kind of North Korean policy will the Trump administration adopt under its neo-isolationism and 'America First' principle? With the North Korean nuclear issue being high on its policy agenda, the Trump administration will probably calibrate the effectiveness of pressuring North Korea and exploring the possibility of dialogue with North Korea. Moreover, it is projected that the Trump administration will emphasize China's role in resolving the North Korean nuclear issue by putting more pressure on China, and require it to undertake the role as a mediator.

Meanwhile, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) continues to advance its nuclear and missile capabilities and devotes all-out-efforts to be recognized as a de facto nuclear state. Through additional nuclear tests and medium- to long-range missile launches, Pyongyang will continue to advance its nuclear capability and establish itself as a nuclear state. Concurrently, North Korea seems likely to make a peace offensive by suggesting a dialogue to the US. However, the DPRK will never agree to denuclearization even in the dialogue phase with the US, and demand a peace negotiation under the condition of being recognized as a nuclear state.

Considering these factors, the U.S.-North Korea relations after the Trump administration are expected to unfold in an unpredictable and dynamic manner. Therefore, the South Korean government should make a projection of the Trump administration's North Korean policy and possible responses from the North, and craft its own policy accordingly. ROK should also set a basic direction of U.S.-ROK policy coordination based on the prospects of U.S.-DPRK relations. Especially, policy coordination measures on specific North Korean and unification-related issues should be put in place, such as nuclear and missile issue, an improvement in U.S.DPRK relations, inter-Korean relations, North Korean human rights, expansion of influx of information, peace settlement on the Korean Peninsula, unification issue, and the future of ROK-US alliance.


1. Prospects for the Trump Administration's North Korean policy

North Korean nuclear issue is expected to become higher on the policy agenda under the Trump administration. North Korea's nuclear development has become a direct threat to the US national security as it has advanced its nuclear capability through five nuclear tests and focused on a missile development that can reach Guam and the US mainland. This will leave the Trump administration willing to resolve North Korean nuclear issue with all means available.

The Trump administration's foreign policy and security team released a joint statement on April 26th, revealing the outline of its North Korean policy for the first time when all the senators were invited to the White House. The joint statement pointed out the followings: 1) past efforts for denuclearization of North Korea have failed, 2) North Korean nuclear issue is an imminent security threat and a top foreign policy priority, 3) the ultimate goal is dissolving nuclear and ballistic missile program, 4) there is a need to intensify economic sanctions along with imposing diplomatic pressure on North Korea, 5) a relaxation of tension and dialogue should be called for North Korea, and 6) cooperation among the ally countries - South Korea and Japan - should be fortified.1

The Trump administration's North Korean policy can be summarized into "maximum pressure and engagement," which indicates its determination to use a tactic of "escalate to de-escalate" in order to bring North Korea to surrender, ft also means that the US administration will prioritize economic sanctions and diplomatic and military pressure while considering various options against North Korea. Various scenarios can be put forward depending on whether pressure or engagement should be a priority and in which order those two should be implemented. …

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