Magazine article The World and I

A Realistic U.S. Policy - the Interests of China, Japan, Russia and the United States Will Continue to Intersect on the Korean Peninsula, the Strategic Crossroads of Northeast Asia

Magazine article The World and I

A Realistic U.S. Policy - the Interests of China, Japan, Russia and the United States Will Continue to Intersect on the Korean Peninsula, the Strategic Crossroads of Northeast Asia

Article excerpt

One Korea is better than two, Koreans believe, assuming a satisfactory quality of life in unified Korea. Koreans' joy at being liberated after 35 years of brutal colonization by Imperial Japan in 1945 quickly yielded to bitter disappointment as the Cold War created two Koreas, shattering one of the world's oldest unified societies. The Korean War represented North Korea's forceful effort to reunify and communize Korea in the early 1950s.

South Koreans today are embarked on a peaceful campaign to conclude the Cold War on the Korean peninsula and reunify their divided nation. The United States has an important role to play in this process, with significant implications for national strategy. North Korea's revelation in October 2002 that it was conducting a clandestine nuclear program presents challenges and opportunities for U.S. foreign policy, especially as North Korea is a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Effective foreign policy achieves U.S. national objectives through measures tailored to different environments. U.S.-Korea policy produced regional peace and prosperity after the Korean War by deterring further aggression by the northern Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and promoting democratization and economic development in the southern Republic of Korea (ROK). U.S. declaratory policy, including the U.S.- ROK mutual defense treaty, and ROK willingness to host U.S. military forces in Korea have deterred North Korea from again invading the ROK.

However, Pyongyang's decisions in the 1980s to develop such weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles raised questions about the ability of deterrence policy alone to maintain regional peace and stability and prevent the proliferation of WMD. Pyongyang's recent nuclear revelation heightens awareness that deterring foreign aggression is one thing, but stopping a sovereign government from conducting indigenous programs is quite another.

Currently, North Korea fields one of the world's largest militaries. It seeks better WMD capabilities that challenge U.S. global security interests and reinforce U.S. concerns regarding Pyongyang's intentions toward two U.S. treaty allies: the ROK and Japan. The United States assesses North Korea to have chemical weapons, a biological weapons development program, and possibly a small (1--2) nuclear weapons arsenal.

Moreover, Pyongyang deploys thousands of rockets. Its short- and medium-range (Nodong) ballistic missiles could deliver nuclear and other WMD against targets throughout South Korea and much of Japan, including U.S. military forces and economic interests. Intercontinental Taepodong II ballistic missiles currently under development could attack the United States, should they ever be deployed. By contrast, neither the ROK nor Japan has nuclear weapons. Both countries rely on the U.S. nuclear umbrella, although Seoul briefly considered developing nuclear weapons in the early 1970s after the Nixon administration reduced U.S. forces without fully consulting Seoul.

This overview prompts a number of questions. What are North Korea's objectives in sustaining such a large military and developing WMD? How can the United States induce North Korea to stop developing such aggressive capabilities, especially given its history of violating international agreements? What are the views of the ROK and Japan, U.S. allies directly threatened by North Korea? What is the desirable political, economic, and security future of Northeast Asia and especially the Korean peninsula? As effective near-term policy is best crafted with a vision of the desired end state, let's begin at the end.

End state: unified Korea

The interests of China, Japan, Russia, and the United States will likely continue to intersect on the Korean peninsula, the strategic crossroads of Northeast Asia. Russia began seeking a role there in the late nineteenth century. …

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