The Korean Peninsula may be the last vestige of the Cold War, but the strategic environment of the Northeast Asian region is undergoing rapid change. South Korea has become both a global economic power and a major player in Asia-Pacific. The United States has shifted its strategic focus to the war on terror and adopted “strategic flexibility” as a military principle; it is restructuring and redeploying its forces in East Asia. As part of its military strategy, the US is reducing, restructuring and relocating the U.S. forces in Korea and agreed to transfer wartime operational control to Korea. North Korea conducted a nuclear test and declared itself to be a nuclear state. The rapid rise of China signals a fundamental shift in the regional and global order. Thanks to its economic power, China is rapidly enhancing its military power as well and its economic and political influence in Asia and the world continues to grow. China and Russia are strengthening their strategic ties. Faced with the threat of North Korean missiles and nuclear weapons as well as China’s growing power, Japan appears to be speeding up its own military buildup and strengthening military alliances. In addition, South Korea’s relations with the United States and Japan have weakened. In particular, security cooperation between the US and South Korea is weakening. On the economic front, however, ties have strengthened. A free trade agreement between South Korea and the United States is expected to enhance overall bilateral relations including security.
What are the implications for South Korea of these rapid changes in the security environment? What might be the South Korean national strategy if there is a resolution to the North Korean nuclear issue? What might be the national strategy of a unified Korea? Should it choose a strategy of neutrality or strategic independence? What will happen to the US-South Korea alliance? How can South Korea maintain peaceful relations with its neighbors and policies should it adopt towards Japan, China and Russia?
The POSCO Fellowship will examine the following issues:
- Long-term security outlook of Northeast Asia and South Korea’s national strategy
- The role of South Korea in the peace and security of the Asia Pacific
- The US-South Korea security alliance
- Prospects for US-South Korea-Japan trilateral security cooperation
- The Japan-China rivalry and its implications for Korean security
- Prospects for multilateral security cooperation in East Asia and the role of South Korea