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Korea-US-China Trilateral Dialogue: “Northeast Asia in Strategic Transition”


Jointly organized by: KFAS-Harvard Belfer Center-Peking University
Friday, November 10, 2017 | 9:00am - 11:30am
Nye A, Taubman Building, Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, MA


9.00 – 9.30 am  Welcome Remarks
• Gary Samore (Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs)
• Park In-kook (Korea Foundation for Advanced Studies)
• Jia Qingguo (Peking University)


9.30 – 11:30 am  Expert Panel on “Responding to the North Korea Threat”

Moderator: Gary Samore (Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs)

Presenters:
• Victor Cha (CSIS/ Georgetown University)
• Ha Young-Sun (East Asia Institute/ Seoul National University)
• Yao Yunzhu (Chinese Academy of Military Science)


The second round of Korea-US-China Trilateral Dialogue was held at Harvard Kennedy School on November 10-11.  The audience for the public session on November 10 comprised of Harvard students and scholars in related fields.




Victor Cha offered an analysis of North Korea’s intention behind nuclear development.  The general view is that their primary purpose is regime survival and security, but Dr. Cha noted that regimes like North Korea are often not status quo oriented: after they achieve minimum security, they can pursue offensive realist or predatory objectives.  He then examined three legs of U.S. policy toward North Korea, namely military options, economic sanctions and diplomacy, emphasizing that the U.S. President has clarified to the North Korean leadership that the path to diplomacy remains open.


Ha Young-Sun examined weaknesses of North Korea policies of the U.S., China, and ROK, and proposed a new roadmap to resolve the increasing threat.  We need to develop a new peace structure, Prof. Ha argued, that can guarantee wellbeing and prosperity of non-nuclear North Korea.  That way, we may be able to persuade the North Korean regime to give up its current Byungjin strategy and turn to a new non-nuclear Byungjin strategy.

 


Yao Yunzhu opened her remarks with an observation that the nuclear issue is not new but has been present in the Korean peninsula since the end of the Cold War.  During the Cold War, the Soviet Union provided nuclear umbrella to the North while the U.S. did for the South, but the balance was interrupted when the Cold War ended.  In the early 1990s, China and the Soviet Union began to establish diplomatic relations with ROK and the Soviet Union didn’t extend its Friendship and Cooperation Treaty with the North, thus withdrawing nuclear umbrella from it.  This disruption in nuclear power balance is what pushed Pyongyang to pursue nuclear development, Dr. Yao argued, adding that while the ROK was protected by U.S. extended deterrence, North Korea, facing threats from the U.S., felt unprotected.  She concluded that the clash of vital interests between the U.S. and North Korea has brought us to the current stage where there is nothing we can offer to North Korea in exchange for giving up its nuclear development.  She also expressed China’s concern that Washington is using North Korea as an excuse to make military first arrangements in Northeast Asia to contain China.  Lastly, she called for the need of trust-building among relevant parties and crisis management plans.


A panel discussion and Q&A session followed, moderated by Gary Samore.  Asked about the feasibility of ‘suspension for suspension’ idea, Dr. Yao answered that there is enough room to maneuver.  Dr. Cha, however, commented that there is an equivalence problem in the double suspension: the US-ROK joint military exercises are not sanctioned by the UN Security Council, while North Korea’s nuclear program is illegal and thus sanctioned.  



Regarding North Korea’s further provocation, Dr. Cha said that what is most worrying now is the possibility of miscalculation on the part of the North.  Prof. Zhu Feng of Nanjing University countered this argument by saying that since Kim Jong Un came to power, there was no single event of DPRK’s conventional provocation against the South except for the landmine case, which is debatable in his opinion.  Dr. Cha responded by saying that it is just up until today; tomorrow they could provoke again.  As to why they haven’t done so far, he conjectured that after the Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island incidents in 2010, South Korea changed its stance and North Korea may be fully aware, or they might be firing missiles at Japan and U.S. territories to decouple the Korea-U.S. alliance.



The Trilateral Dialogue is part of the Korea Foundation for Advanced Studies (KFAS)’s knowledge-sharing initiatives designed to promote inter-institutional dialogue among the U.S., China, and ROK and to enhance overall public understanding of key policy issues concerning the three nations.  The first round was held in Seoul this past February, and the third round is slated to be held in Beijing next year.




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