Special Forum

The theme of this year’s Asan Plenum was Korea’s Choice, and the core question regarded a choice between reaffirmation of the ROK-US alliance and prioritization of reunification with the long-separated northern part of the peninsula. For the first time in seven decades this choice had become a serious factor in Seoul’s diplomatic thinking. In many panels, both Koreans and Americans gave their views on this choice. Often, these opinions reflected a state of pessimism about both the impact of domestic politics in each country on the environment for choosing and the state of diplomacy with North Korea and the wider Northeast Asia. Concern was often raised about the degree to which national interests are being pursued under the guidance of experts—whether officials steeped in security analysis or social scientists informed on regional affairs—or are being disregarded by the unprecedented concentration of power in the hands of the White House and Blue House respectively. At risk is, first of all, a sustainable policy toward North Korea—the essence of alliance solidarity since the Korean War. Beyond that, there is fear of a loss of a shared understanding of the framework for regional coordination: for trilateralism with Japan; for a vision to address China and Russia’s growing challenges, individually as well as collectively; and even for a sense of fairness in making sacrifices needed for bilateral solidarity. Moon Jae-in seems obsessed with boosting ties to Kim Jong-un, as Donald Trump’s obsession with “America First” also casts doubt on the balance between national interests and values, even as Kim attempts to draw a wedge between the two, playing on national identity.

Read full article at www.theasanforum.org.
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