Beyond North Korea: Fractures in the US-South Korea Alliance

Tracing near-term, structural, and strategic divergences in the alliance

Originally published in The Diplomat
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38 North

With U.S.-North Korea talks at an impasse and Pyongyang sticking to a tactically ambiguous line, attention has moved away from the Korean Peninsula. However, policymakers should not lose sight of ongoing developments within the U.S.-South Korea alliance. Although the Trump administration refers to the alliance as the “linchpin” of its Indo-Pacific strategy, and Congress passes resolutions in support of Asian allies, it is unclear whether U.S. policymakers fully appreciate the extent to which U.S. and South Korean perspectives diverge on fundamental bilateral and strategic issues.

Whether or not diplomacy with Pyongyang moves forward or continues to erode, alliance cohesion is crucial. Yet the allies face multiple interrelated challenges, which not only undermine cohesion vis-à-vis Pyongyang, but call into question the longevity of the alliance itself. These include tensions over the nature and scope of alliance cost-sharing; changes to the alliance’s bilateral military command architecture; and, more broadly, differing perspectives amid a shifting strategic context and rising China.

Read the full Op-Ed in The Diplomat.

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