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The Korean Pivot: Challenges and Opportunitites from Evolving Chinese-Russian and U.S.-Japanese Security Ties
Region: Asia
Theme: Security
Published March 25, 2007
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This paper provides an analytical assessment of the implications for North and South Korea of recent changes in the Chinese-Russian and U.S.-Japanese security relationships.The evolution of these two security relationships presents challenges and opportunities for both Korean states. On the one hand, the evolving situation could lead to a revival of Cold War alignments, with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Russia resisting Japanese-U.S. efforts to force the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to abandon its nuclear weapons program. In this case, both sides would pressure the leaders of the Republic of Korea (ROK) to support their positions. On the other hand, the six-party talks, the military alliance between South Korea and the United States, and other existing security ties might help provide the basis for launching multinational initiatives to address regional security issues. In this scenario, opportunities would arise for profitable security linkages across the Sino-Russian and U.S.-Japanese alignments.
The first section reviews the evolving security environment encompassing the Korean peninsula. This summary describes the wide-ranging ties between China and Russia, the recent changes in the Japanese-U.S. military alliance, and the strained relationship between China and Japan. The next section focuses on the most important security policies of China, Russia, and Japan toward the two Koreas. China and Russia, North Korea’s primary allies during the Cold War , have maintained their conne c t ions with Pyongyang while simultaneously cultivating new ties, especially in the economic dimension, with South Korea. In contrast, relations between Japan and the two Koreas remain troubled by historical burdens and other differences. The final section assesses how these changing relations currently affect the Korean peninsula and suggests how, by working through international institutions and other means, the six countries can overcome the challenges and exploit the opportunities created by the transformation in the East Asian security environment.

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