The US-PRC-ROK Triangle: Managing the Future

in Program

This report was published in January 2004 by the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security as part of a three-volume series entitled Coping with Korea’s Security Challenges.

Different perspectives on the North Korean nuclear issue have magnified other, long-standing but growing strains in US-ROK relations to threaten the durability of the alliance and potentially the strategic stability of the Northeast Asian region. The virtual collapse of the 1994 Agreed Framework has revealed fissures in US-ROK views about the nature of the North Korean threat and the appropriate means for dealing with it. The differences have been magnified by the growing sense of disharmony on both sides of the alliance, though primarily in the ROK.

As best one can tell, the anti-American sentiment that has come more forcefully to the surface in the past couple of years is not representative of the majority view in Korea. And to the extent that it does exist, there is evidence that it can be turned around, at least for most Koreans. Still, it is significant, and the danger is that both sides might ignore these problems on the theory that they are anomalous and not representative of true attitudes on either side, or that other factors might exacerbate them beyond the point of repair. Either development would not only be risky but potentially fatal to the alliance.

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