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Trilateral Dialogue: Opportunities and Challenges for US-China-Korea Cooperation




Korea Foundation for Advanced Studies(KFAS) hosted “Trilateral Dialogue: Opportunities and Challenges for US-China-Korea Cooperation” on February 17, 2017.  Eighteen international relations experts from the United States, China, and Korea were invited to give presentations and engage in discussions.  The event was organized by KFAS in collaboration with Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and the School of International Studies at Peking University.






During the opening ceremony in the morning, speeches were delivered by KFAS Chairman Chey Tae-won, First Vice Minister Lim Sung-nam(Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Executive Director Gary Samore of the Harvard Belfer Center, and Dean Jia Qingguo of the School of International Studies at Peking University. 


In his address, First Vice Minister Lim stated that all three countries are, unfortunately, undergoing political changes domestically while facing challenges such as the North Korean nuclear provocations and setbacks in free trade. At this critical juncture, he remarked, platforms for exchanging ideas such as the Trilateral Dialogue are essential for transforming challenges into opportunities.




The topic of Session I was “US-China Relations in Transition”.  It was moderated by Prof. Lee Jung-Hoon of the Graduate School of International Studies at Yonsei University.  The presenters were Vice President Douglas H. Paal of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Senior Fellow William Tobey of the Harvard Belfer Center, Dean Jia Qingguo, Prof. Yoon Young-kwan of the Department of Political Science and International Relations at Seoul National University, and Prof. Chung Jae Ho of the Faculty of International Relations at Seoul National University.  Vice President Paal said it is too early to think that the Trump administration has made the transition from the campaign to governance based on one phone call between President Trump and President Xi.  He also talked about the “true believers”(those who took part in the revolutionary campaign, who truly believe in a whole new way of doing things) versus the “deep state”(existing system comprised of the intelligence community, military community, government institutions, Congress, and Supreme Court).  The Trump administration will need time to switch from being in the campaign mode to actually governing, he observed.




Session II focused on “Denuclearization of North Korea with the New US Administration”, which was moderated by KFAS President Park In-kook.  Presentations were given by Executive Director Gary Samore, Senior Advisor Victor Cha of the Center for Strategic and International Studies(CSIS), Executive Director Zhu Feng of the China Center for Collaborative Innovation of the South China Sea Studies at Nanjing University, Prof. Yu Tiejun of the School of International Studies at Peking University, Prof. Lee Chung Min from the Graduate School of International Studies at Yonsei University, and Director Kim Heungkyu of the China Policy Institute at Ajou University.  North Korean nuclear issues and possibilities of cooperation with China were critically analyzed.  Senior Advisor Cha refuted the popular belief that China-North Korea relations have worsened since Kim Jong Un came to power as statistics show that interaction at the level of high officials between the two countries has not changed significantly.  Director Zhu gave a contrasting view by observing China has yet to extend an official invitation to Kim Jong Un, which is a departure from normal practice as Chinese leaders have always made North Korea the destination of their first official foreign visit.  Director Zhu added that various Chinese media have been expressing rampant criticism and sardonic attitude toward North Korea. 




The final session took place after lunch under the topic of “New Economic and Trade Order in East Asia”.  The moderator was Prof. Ahn Dukgeun from the Graduate School of International Studies at Seoul National University.  Vice Chairman Evan A. Feigenbaum of The Paulson Institute at the University of Chicago, Dr. John Park of the Harvard Belfer Center, Director Yao Yang of the China Center for Economic Research at Peking University, Prof. Choi Byung-il of the Graduate School of International Studies at Ewha Womans University, and Prof. Cheong Young Rok of the Graduate School of International Studies at Seoul National University gave presentations.  Vice Chairman Feigenbaum said that while the currency issue has become more pronounced in US-China trade, what American enterprises are really interested in are gaining access to the Chinese market and creating a liberal investment environment.  Other elements that can influence the trade order in Northeast Asia such as the US-China Bilateral Investment Treaty(BIT) and US-Japan Fair Trade Agreement(an idea introduced by Prof. Choi for the two countries now that TPP negotiations have collapsed) were also discussed.

Since 2014, Korea Foundation for Advanced Studies have been organizing track II trilateral conferences and dialogues in collaboration with the Brookings Institution, Harvard Belfer Center, Peking University, and other institutions with the belief that US-China-Korea cooperation is an essential prerequisite towards achieving peace and continued development of the Northeast Asian region.



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