Tag Archive | "President Obama"

The Future of the U.S.-Korea Alliance and the National Assembly Elections

By Troy Stangarone

It has generally been acknowledged that the U.S.-Korea alliance is at an all time high. At a time of rising international challenges from the 2008 global financial crisis to enhanced efforts to secure nuclear materials, Korea has played an increasingly prominent role on the global stage and become a key partner for the United States.  Despite all of the progress the two sides have made in recent years, elections for the National Assembly in Korea on April 11th will likely be the firsts of a series of turning points over the next year that could reshape the alliance.

Over the next nine months, three critical elections will take place which will impact how U.S.-Korea relations evolve in the coming years. While the United States will hold presidential and Congressional elections in November, and Korea will vote for its next president in December, the National Assembly elections will come first and begin to indicate the potential directions of change.

Only a few months ago, the general consensus was that the opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) would cruise to a significant victory in the National Assembly.  The ruling Grand National Party, now the New Frontier Party (NFP), had lost a snap Seoul mayoral election in October to political novice Park Won-soon and despite the poor performance by the DUP trends seemed to be moving in the direction of progressives.  However, with six months being an eternity in politics, recent polling data from the Asan Institute for Policy Studies and other outlets indicates that the two parties are virtually tied and that the balance of power in the National Assembly will be held by smaller parties.

It is unclear if a coalition government in the National Assembly will work as smoothly as the Conservative-Liberal coalition in the United Kingdom or the minority Conservative government that ruled Canada until recently. Instead, there is a chance that without a working majority, either party might be pulled to the extremes by its coalition partner.  The most likely outcome would be the DUP needing votes from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to create a working majority. With the DPP being firmly against the KORUS FTA, it could push a DUP minority government in the National Assembly to take harder line positions on the agreement than it might otherwise want.

Adding to the complicated picture is the chance that liberal parties could end up in control of the legislature while the conservatives win the Blue House in the fall. While the parties have yet to nominate their candidates, Park Geun-hye of the NFP is the likely leading candidate, with political novice and independent Ahn Cheol-soo potentially another strong contender.

What will these, and changes in the United States later this year mean for the alliance? One potential outcome is something similar to what has become of the U.S.-Japan alliance in recent years. After reaching a high tide with the personal relationship between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and President George W. Bush, the relationship cooled as politics became more complicated in Japan and that warm personal relationship was removed from the equation.

One of the current strengths of U.S.-Korea relations is the close personal tie between President’s Barack Obama and Lee Myung-bak, who is perhaps President Obama’s closest ally abroad. Even should Obama be reelected, the nature of the relationship with a new president in Korea will likely change. Add in the likelihood of political gridlock in the National Assembly impacting U.S.-Korea issues, and one could see something similar to what happened in Japan occurring in Korea.

A second potential outcome could be an alliance where both parties seek to emphasize new interests. Regardless of who wins the presidential elections in the United States, the emphasis on the Asian pivot will likely remain. However, much of its focus to date has been on South Asia rather than Northeast Asia. At the same time, progressive forces in Korea could seek to move away from the heavy level of cooperation with the United States and seek greater balance in Korea’s relations with other nations. Under this scenario, while the United States and Korea would remain cordial allies, the current level of coordination and cooperation would likely be scaled back.

Another factor will be who wins the U.S. and Korean presidential elections. One of the strong aspects of the current relationship is the close level of coordination between the United States and Korea on North Korea policy. However, even Park Geun-hye and other conservatives have indicated a new approach to North Korea may be needed. If Mitt Romney were to win the presidency, there could be a push for a more hard-line policy in the United States at the same time Korea sought to go another direction.

From the Korean side, should Ahn Cheol-soo decide to run for the presidency and win, he could create a completely unknown dynamic. While he continues to flesh out his political philosophy, he has indicated a desire to move beyond ideological politics. How this would translate in practicality is unclear.  Alternatively, he could serve as a kingmaker endorsing the progressive candidate of his choice much as he did in the Seoul mayoral election.

Whoever wins the elections on April 11th, or later this fall, the nature of the relationship will begin to change. Each of the parties will bring new interests and new perspectives on the alliance. This will not necessarily be a bad thing. Alliances grow and evolve over time. While the Roh Moo-hyun years were often contentious, they were also highly productive years in terms of negotiating the KORUS FTA and restructuring the security aspects of the alliance. That being said, U.S.-Korea relations will soon begin transitioning from the close relationship of the last few years to a more normal alliance.

Troy Stangarone is the Senior Director of Congressional Affairs and Trade for the Korea Economic Institute. The views expressed here are his own.

Image from Jens-Olaf’s photo stream on flickr Creative Commons.

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What the ‘Asia Pivot’ Means for South Korea

By Ben Hancock

President Obama this week is gearing up for a trip to South Korea that will see him both participate in the international Nuclear Security Summit and make the short journey from Seoul to the border with North Korea. It’s also his first trip to Korea — indeed, anywhere in Asia — since last November, when his administration trumpeted the “Asia pivot,” a term that still has many in the foreign policy world scratching their heads. This makes now a good moment to reflect on what the “pivot” really means for South Korea, a long-time U.S. ally that already hosts a strong contingent of some 28,500 American soldiers.

It’s seems safe to say that, so far, the pivot has not yielded any concrete outcomes, perhaps other than stronger U.S. military ties with Australia. But even so, many observers have framed the policy as Washington taking an active role to counter-balance the widening influence of Beijing in the Asia-Pacific. Clearly, if true, this is an aspect that would have bearing on South Korea and its neighbor to the north. The questions are: How exactly would this affect the peninsula, and how likely is this effort to yield new results given the current geo-political dynamic?

In concept at least, it seems fairly straightforward that reducing military and economic tension in the Asia-Pacific by having the U.S. reaffirm its commitment to serving as an outside balancer in the region at a time when the rise of China has many worried would be beneficial for South Korea. Any subsequent increased U.S. leverage on China would also probably give Washington a better hand in negotiating with the North on its nuclear program — also a benefit for Seoul.

So that’s a partial answer to my first question. The fuller answer is: it’s complicated.  For example, it’s not really clear whether a new U.S. military focus on the Asia-Pacific would really counter-balance against China, or would simply raise the stakes as Beijing undergoes a leadership transition of its own and seeks to ensure stability and project strength. For that matter, it’s unclear if the pivot truly means an increased U.S. military focus on the region or more of a commitment not to reduce its presence. Similarly, on the economic front, it’s unanswered whether a new U.S.-led trade deal among nations along the Pacific Rim will really pressure China to adopt high standards, or will simply lead it to forge its own deals — with Korea and Japan, for instance.

We may not need to worry about any of that. In answer to the second question, I would bet that the likelihood of new developments under the “pivot” is very low. Though House Republicans are trying to reduce the budgetary impact on the Pentagon, defense cuts of some measure appear to be on the horizon. That seems to rule out a rise in U.S. military might in Asia being a cornerstone of the “pivot” policy. In Korea, it seems likely that the base consolidation now underway will continue along the same course, along with the transfer of wartime command to Seoul.

Next, economics and trade. Obama kicked off the year in his State of the Union with a clear salvo against China in this area, almost undoubtedly because it plays well in an election year. But this approach seems unlikely to further the long-term U.S. goal of convincing China to rebalance its export-dominated economy. This probably means the status quo for South Korea, too, which continues to be interested in making inroads into the Chinese market.  Of course, Korea could make advances on its own by increasing market share and investment in China if bilateral negotiations with Beijing take off. In the meantime, the conclusion of the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (in which Korea has shown little interest) is still miles away.

This mix of factors seems to foreshadow a familiar formula for dealing with North Korea as well. Absent any new show of U.S. military might, increased leverage with China economically or otherwise, or real diplomatic maneuvering, what’s to keep the North from playing its old tricks? Not a whole lot, it seems, as evidenced by its return to testing missiles with the purported purpose of sending satellites into space. When Obama looks over the DMZ early next week for the first time since taking office, he may well find himself still puzzled at how to engage such a defiant nation.

This all paints a picture of the “pivot” not meaning very much for Korea in the near term. In fact, it may be more accurate to think of the phrase as the administration’s branding for what it has already accomplished in Asia — joining new dialogues, showing a lot of earnest diplomatic engagement in the region, and passing the KORUS FTA. That doesn’t mean there are no prospects for future developments under this umbrella; if Obama is granted more time to pursue the policy by voters this November, we may yet see it take on new aspects. A positive shift in the direction of the U.S. economy and fiscal situation could also alter the narrative, but neither of those appear to be in the offing any time soon.

Ben Hancock is a journalist based in Washington, D.C. He has studied Korean language and culture since 2004, and most recently lived in Korea from 2008 to 2010. The views represented here are his own.

Photo from Expert Infantry’s photo stream on flickr Creative Commons.

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The Hungry Child in North Korea

By Karin Lee, NCNK

In December 2010, North Korea began asking multiple countries for food aid.  Its request to the U.S. came in early 2011, but it wasn’t until December 2011 that a deal seemed close, with the U.S. prepared to provide 240,000 metric tons (MTs) of assistance. Kim Jong Il died soon after this news hit the press, and details of the potential deal were never announced.

In the ideal world, Ronald Reagan’s “hungry child” knows no politics. But the case of North Korea is far from ideal. The U.S. government states it does not take politics into consideration when determining whether to provide aid to North Korea. Instead, the decision is based on three criteria: need in North Korea, competing demands for assistance, and the ability to monitor aid effectively. Yet these three criteria are subjective and tinged by politics.

In 2011 a succession of four assessment delegations (one by U.S. NGOs, one by the U.S. government, one by the EU and one by the UN) visited the DPRK. All found pretty much the same thing: widespread chronic malnutrition, especially among children and pregnant or lactating women, and cases of acute malnutrition. The UN confirmed the findings late last year, reporting chronic malnutrition in children under five in the areas visited — 33% overall, and 45% in the northern part of the country.

Some donors responded quickly. For example, shortly after its July assessment, the EU announced a 10 Million Euro donation. Following its own May assessment, however, the U.S. government was slow to make a commitment.  Competing demands may have played a role. In July, the predicted famine in the Horn of Africa emerged, prompting a U.S. response of over $668 million in aid to “the worst food crisis in half a century.”  While there was no public linkage between U.S. action on the African famine and inaction on North Korea, there could have been an impact.

But the two biggest factors shaping the U.S. government’s indecisiveness continued to be uncertainty about both the severity of the need and the ability to establish an adequate monitoring regime. At times, South Korean private and public actors questioned the extent of the North’s need. Early on, a lawmaker in South Korea asserted that North Korea already had stockpiled 1,000,000 metric tons of rice for its military. Human rights activist Ha Tae Keung argued that North Korea would use the aid contributed in 2011 to augment food distributions in 2012 in celebration of the 100th birthday of Kim Il Sung and North Korea’s status as a “strong and prosperous nation.”  According to Yonhap, shortly after the U.N. released the above-noted figures, South Korean Unification Minister Yu Woo-Ik called the food situation in North Korea not “very serious.”

South Korea’s ambivalence about the extent of the food crisis was noted by Capitol Hill, exacerbating congressional reluctance to support food aid. A letter to Secretary Clinton sent shortly before the U.S. assessment trip in May began with Senators Lieberman, McCain, Webb and Kyl explaining they shared South Korean government suspicions that food aid would be stockpiled and requesting State to “rigorously” evaluate any DPRK request for aid. With the close ROK-U.S. relationship one of the administration’s most notable foreign policy accomplishments, such a warning may have carried some weight.

Monitoring is of equal, if not greater congressional concern. Since the 1990s U.S. NGOs and USAID have worked hard with DPRK counterparts to expand monitoring protocols, and conditions have consistently improved over time. In the 2008/2009 program, the first food program funded by the U.S. government since 2000, the DPRK agreed to provisions such as Korean-speaking monitors. The NGO portion of the program was fairly successful in implementing the monitoring protocol; when implementation of the WFP portion hit some bumps, USAID suspended shipments to WFP until issues could be resolved. The DPRK ended the program prematurely in March 2009 with 330,000 MT remaining.

In 2011 the Network for North Korean Human Rights and Democracy conducted a survey of recent defectors to examine “aid effectiveness” in the current era. Out of the 500 interviewees, 274 left the DPRK after 2010. However, only six were from provinces where NGOs had distributed aid in 2008/2009. Disturbingly, of the 106 people interviewees who had knowingly received food aid, 29 reported being forced to return food. Yet the report doesn’t state their home towns, or when the events took place. Unfortunately such incomplete data proves neither the effectiveness nor ineffectiveness of the most recent monitoring regime.

Some believe that adequate monitoring is impossible. The House version of the 2012 Agricultural Appropriations Act included an amendment prohibiting the use of Food for Peace or Title II funding for food aid to North Korea; the amendment was premised on this belief. However the final language signed into law in November called for “adequate monitoring,” not a prohibition on funding.

The U.S. response, nine months in the making, reflects the doubts outlined above and the politically challenging task of addressing them. It took months for the two governments to engage in substantive discussions on monitoring after the May trip. In December, the State Department called the promised nutritional assistance “easier to monitor” because items such as highly fortified foods and nutritional supplements are supposedly less desirable and therefore less likely to be diverted than rice. The reported offer of 240,000 MT– less than the 330,000 MT the DPRK requested – reflects the unconfirmed report that the U.S. identified vulnerable populations but not widespread disaster.

In early January, the DPRK responded. Rather than accepting the assistance that was under discussion, it called on the United States to provide rice and for the full amount, concluding “We will watch if the U.S. truly wants to build confidence.”  While this statement has been interpreted positively by some as sign of the new Kim Jong Un regime’s willingness to talk, it also demonstrates a pervasive form of politicization – linkage. A “diplomatic source” in Seoul said the December decision on nutritional assistance was linked to a North Korean pledge to suspend its uranium enrichment program. Linkage can be difficult to avoid, and the long decision-making process in 2011 may have exacerbated the challenge. Although Special Representative Glyn Davies was quick to state that “there isn’t any linkage” between the discussion of nutritional assistance and dialogue on security issues, he acknowledged that the ability of the DPRK and US to work together cooperatively on food assistance would be interpreted as a signal regarding security issues. Meanwhile, the hungry child in North Korea is still hungry.

For a digest of humanitarian news, see the NCNK website.

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The Year in Review: The Korean Peninsula in 2011

By Troy Stangarone

While 2011 will ultimately be remembered for the passing of Kim Jong-il, it was also a year of significant change and new milestones for both South Korea and the U.S.-Korea alliance.

In many ways, 2011 really began in the waning days of 2010 for South Korea. On November 23 last year, North Korea shelled Yeonpyeong Island, killing two civilians and two members of the South Korean military. The attack sealed a chill in relations between North and South Korea that would set the tone for the first half of 2011. By the time both sides began to make progress towards the end of the year that could have led to the resumption of the Six Party Talks, Kim Jong-il had passed away.

At the same time, barely two weeks after the shelling of Yeonpyong Island, the United States and South Korea reached a supplementary agreement on the KORUS FTA that paved the way for the agreement to be passed four years after originally being concluded. Despite political delays over remaining political issues in Washington and in Seoul, the long stalled agreement was passed by Congress on October 12 during President Lee Myung-bak’s summit visit and the National Assembly during a surprise session on November 22.

Having resolved long-standing concerns over the FTA, it is now set to coming into effect early next year. Representing a significant deepening of U.S.-Korea relations, the FTA signifies an important milestone for both sides in remaking the alliance into a broad based 21st century partnership that extends beyond mutual concerns about North Korea. However, despite the importance of the agreement politically and economically, the politics surrounding it may seep into 2012 as the opposition in South Korea has continued to call for the agreement’s renegotiation.

Korea also saw success on the Olympic front in 2011. After bidding previously for the 2010 and 2014 Olympic Games, Pyeongchang easily beat out Munich and Annecy for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.  With the International Olympic Committee awarding Korea the 2018 Winter Games, Korea will join the United States, Italy, Germany, France, Japan, and Russia as the only nations to host both Winter and Summer Olympic Games.

Despite lingering concerns regarding the KORUS FTA, 2011 was an important year for South Korea when it comes to trade. On July 1, the EU FTA came into force, making it the world’s largest bilateral free trade agreement and in early December South Korea overcame the headwinds of uncertainty from the euro zone crisis to pass the $1 trillion threshold in total trade for the first time.  South Korea reached the $1 trillion mark in total trade in a short six years after first crossing the $500 billion threshold and during some of the worst economic times since the Second World War. Barring a meltdown in the euro zone, which remains a real possibility, the EU FTA and newly implemented KORUS FTA will likely help South Korea to continue to expand its trade volume in the coming year.

On the diplomatic front, there were a series of milestones. The summit meeting between Presidents Lee Myung-bak and Barak Obama in October was universally seen as a high water mark in U.S.-Korea relations and representative of a strengthening of ties in recent years.  South Korea continued its efforts to become more of a global player as it hosted the 4th High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan and is set to host the next Nuclear Security Summit in 2012. On a bilateral level, Ambassador Sung Kim became the first Korean-American to be posted to Seoul, capping a year of deepening ties between Washington and Seoul.

At the same time, the future holds uncertainty for the relationship. Like much of the world, South Korea is beginning to feel the effects of political change. In the November Seoul mayoral election, the Grand National Party (GNP) was unable to hold on to the mayor’s office, but the Democratic Party (DP) was unable to capitalize on the GNP’s difficulties. Instead, social networking and a desire for change from politics as usual led to the surprise victory of the independent Park Won-soon in the mayor’s race and the failure of the DP to gain any traction in the election. The aftershocks have already seen the DP merge with a party of supporters of former President Roh Moo-hyun to form the new Democratic Unity Party and a push for greater change in the GNP.

Despite the prospect for political change in South Korea, the most sweeping changes of 2011 have occurred in North Korea. With the surprise death of Kim Jong-il, the succession process put in place during the September, 2010 Workers Party Conference was unexpectedly pushed forward. In recent days the regime has worked to choreograph a smooth transition to Kim Jong-un as the military has publically referred to Kim-Jong-un as its “supreme commander”  and he has been promoted to top post in the Korean Workers Party Central Committee.  However, it is still unclear if Kim Jong-un will govern with complete authority as his father did, or North Korea will move towards a collective leadership structure where Kim Jong-un serves as a figure head. What does seem clear, despite uncertainty about the future ability of the regime and Kim Jong-un to maintain its hold on power, is that the passing of Kim Jong-il will presage a change in how North Korea is governed.

On a lighter note, South Korea saw the debut of Saturday Night Live Korea (SNLK), a spinoff of the popular U.S. satire. While early indications are that SNLK will be as irreverent as its American counterpart, that might not be a bad thing. Given the uncertainty that lies ahead in North Korea with the death of Kim Jong-il, many Koreans might just need a good laugh in 2012 as many of the events of 2011 linger into next year and they ponder their own future.

Troy Stangarone is the Senior Director of Congressional Affairs and Trade for the Korea Economic Institute. The views expressed here are his own.

Photo from David Hepworth’s photostream in flickr Creative Commons.

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Flexibility Needed for Six Party Success

By Chad 0Carroll

After nearly three years of interruption, a flurry of recent diplomatic activity has suggested that significant efforts are being made to restart the Six Party Talks.   In July, officials from Pyongyang and Seoul met in Bali for the first time in months, with a second meeting taking place in Beijing just a few weeks ago.   Washington had direct contact in July through Ambassador Stephen Bosworth in New York – and now looks set to hold a second meeting with North Korean negotiators in Geneva later this month.   But do these four meetings, coupled with recent State visits by Kim Jong-il to Russia and China, give cause for optimism on a swift resumption of Six Party Talks?  A closer look at the key parties’ current positions suggests otherwise.

North Korea withdrew from the Six Party Talks in April 2009, unilaterally declaring that it would “never again take part in such talks” and would “not be bound by any agreement reached at the talks”.  Never say never though, because when Ambassador Bosworth met his counterpart Kim Kye-gwan in September 2009, he was told that Pyongyang was actually interested in resuming talks, but on condition that the U.S. first discussed a peace treaty and lifted sanctions.  Fast forward to August this year, and these preconditions were dropped all-together after a two hour meeting between Kim Jong-il and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, bringing North Korea full circle.

Following the second nuclear test, the sinking of the Cheonan, and the shelling of Yeonpyeong, it was easy to understand why South Korea was originally so insistent on North Korea apologizing for its belligerence as a precondition to resuming any disarmament talks.  However, in January leaks from the government made clear  a change in position – that Pyongyang would no longer have to apologize first.  According to a senior ROK government official the current position is now that “The six-party talks will come back to life only if North Korea shows its sincerity by taking the required pre-steps, including a monitored shutdown of its uranium enrichment program”.

As a result of strong ties between Presidents Barack Obama and Lee Myung-Bak, the U.S. position has closely mirrored that of Seoul since the nuclear and missile tests of 2009.  Most recently, this position was articulated in three steps that North Korea would have to take to reinitiate dialogue – on issues related to nuclear weapons, missiles, and its relations with the South.  Predictably, North Korea rejected these, saying that they too should be entitled preconditions if such an approach were to be considered.

In contrast to the major differences between the DPRK, ROK and U.S. positions, Russia and China appear to be on the same page.  Recent initiatives such as the Medvedev – Kim Jong-il summit in Ulan Ude and Beijing’s September hosting of North and South Korean nuclear negotiators underscores a shared Sino-Russian desire to see the Six Party Talks resumed as quickly as possible.  And while little is known about Japan’s current position due to recent political turbulence, some scholars have suggested that Tokyo might be following the lead from the U.S. and South Korea.

As the current narrative would suggest, if next week’s U.S. – DPRK bilateral meeting is to achieve anything, flexibility is going to be critical.  But where will we see the motivation to show flexibility?

From the North Korean perspective, it appears unlikely that Pyongyang will be motivated to dilute its current position.   Making the type of credible gestures required to prove “sincerity” to South Korea and the U.S. would entail at least some foreign inspection presence on DPRK soil to work.   This was something previously achievable only after copious injections of cash or aid through protracted negotiations.  Without material payoff in return, it is hard to understand why Pyongyang would acquiesce to such a demand.  Having been the country to so vocally quit the Six Party Talks in 2009, it’s hard to see why North Korea might feel any burden to prove “sincerity”– after all, it is the one who can take or leave these nuclear negotiations.

The U.S. and South Korea are both in a difficult position regarding the resumption of talks.  With the North Koreans having declared a uranium program, tested a nuclear device and killed South Korean nationals, it is easy to understand why there is so little appetite in Seoul or Washington to water-down current positions.

But at the same time, there is a growing fear that if negotiations remain frozen, North Korea may be motivated to carry out a third nuclear test or attempt to cause further regional agitation.  In addition, left unchecked North Korea is now enriching uranium, improving the accuracy of its long-range missiles, and post-Fukushima, endangering the region through its aging nuclear infrastructure.   As a result, it would appear South Korea and the U.S. have the most to lose should negotiations remain stalled.  The major difficulty lies in facilitating this from a political perspective.

Chad 0Carroll is the Director of Communications for the Korea Economic Institute. The views represented here are his own.

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The Lee-Obama Summit – A Celebration

By Amb. Charles (Jack) Pritchard

The official State Visit by Republic of Korea President Lee Myung-bak this week marks a true celebration of a remarkable partnership between the United States and the Republic of Korea.  We are all familiar with the origin of the relationship and the amazing success story of Korea’s rise from the ashes of the Korean War to become the nation that it is today.  President Lee’s visit has more to do with the unparalleled state of the relationship and his commitment to it.

I do not know of any serious Korea-watcher who does not attribute the improvement of the U.S.-Korea relationship primarily to President Lee. Like any other relationship, it takes two to Tango and both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama deserve great credit for nurturing the relationship in partnership with President Lee.

That said, the Summit offers an opportunity to celebrate a number of accomplishments and to lay the groundwork for even more in the future.  More than four years after the KORUS FTA was signed, the Congress will ratify the agreement.  With that action, attention will shift to Korea where it will be the National Assembly’s turn to formally ratify the FTA.  This is cause for celebration.  The KORUS FTA is a win-win situation for both countries and marks a significant change in the strategic relationship.  The basis of the alliance has rested primarily on the security component and extensive people-to-people ties.  With ratification of the KORUS FTA, the economic component of the alliance provides a complete balance to the strategic relationship.

There are few concrete issues that will demand the attention of the two presidents and little likelihood of any new agreements.  The close consultation on how to deal with North Korea over the past 3 years means that we can expect a public validation of how things will proceed.  Seoul has had two recent meetings with Pyongyang and Washington will hold its first substantive discussion with North Korea later this month.  Whether or not an acceptable path forward on the resumption of Six Party Talks can be reached is questionable.  Both governments appear to have come to the same conclusion that even if talks resume, there is little likelihood that real progress on denuclearization can be made.

I would also expect that there will be an acknowledgement that both parties are moving quickly to craft the required 123 Nuclear Agreement that will renew bilateral nuclear cooperation between the U.S. and Korea once the existing agreement expires in 2014.

The arrival ceremony, the vice president’s lunch, the speech before a joint session of Congress, the summit meeting and State Dinner are all designed to show to the Korean people the enormous pride and respect we have in our extraordinary relationship.

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The Peninsula blog is a project of the Korea Economic Institute. It is designed to provide a wide ranging forum for discussion of the foreign policy, economic, and social issues that impact the Korean peninsula. The views expressed on The Peninsula are those of the authors alone, and should not be taken to represent the views of either the editors or the Korea Economic Institute. For questions, comments, or to submit a post to The Peninsula, please contact us at ts@keia.org.