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STRATEGIC VISION Volume 7, Issue 38


June, 2018

for Taiwan Security


ISSN 2227-3646

Political Warfare Threats Kerry Gershaneck

US Strategy Causes Concern Lu Wen-hao

Indo-Pacific Challenges Christopher B. Roberts

Trump-Kim Summit David Scott

Comfort Women Seeking Justice Robert McCoy


for Taiwan Security

Volume 7, Issue 38


June, 2018

Contents PRC Political Warfare.....................................................................4

Kerry Gershaneck

Indo-Pacific Challenges................................................................ 12

Christopher B. Roberts

Korean Comfort Women.............................................................. 20

Robert McCoy

US National Security Strategy.......................................................26

Lu Wen-hao

Trump-Kim Summit..................................................................... 31

David Scott

Submissions: Essays submitted for publication are not to exceed 2,000 words in length, and should conform to the following basic format for each 1200-1600 word essay: 1. Synopsis, 100-200 words; 2. Background description, 100-200 words; 3. Analysis, 800-1,000 words; 4. Policy Recommendations, 200-300 words. Book reviews should not exceed 1,200 words in length. Notes should be formatted as endnotes and should be kept to a minimum. Authors are encouraged to submit essays and reviews as attachments to emails; Microsoft Word documents are preferred. For questions of style and usage, writers should consult the Chicago Manual of Style. Authors of unsolicited manuscripts are encouraged to consult with the executive editor at xiongmu@gmail.com before formal submission via email. The views expressed in the articles are the personal views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of their affiliate institutions or of Strategic Vision. Manuscripts are subject to copyediting, both mechanical and substantive, as required and according to editorial guidelines. No major alterations may be made by an author once the type has been set. Arrangements for reprints should be made with the editor. Cover photograph by Yun Ho Lee.

Editor Fu-Kuo Liu Executive Editor Aaron Jensen Associate Editor Dean Karalekas Editorial Board Tiehlin Yen Yi-hua Kan Richard Hu Guang-chang Bian Chung-kun Ma Lipin Tien Christopher B. Roberts STRATEGIC VISION For Taiwan Security (ISSN 2227-3646) Volume 7, Number 38, July, 2018, published under the auspices of the Center for Security Studies and National Defense University. All editorial correspondence should be mailed to the editor at STRATEGIC VISION, Center for Security Studies in Taiwan. No. 64, Wan Shou Road, Taipei City 11666, Taiwan, ROC. The editors are responsible for the selection and acceptance of articles; responsibility for opinions expressed and accuracy of facts in articles published rests solely with individual authors. The editors are not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts; unaccepted manuscripts will be returned if accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed return envelope. Photographs used in this publication are used courtesy of the photographers, or through a creative commons licence. All are attributed appropriately. Any inquiries please contact the Executive Editor directly via email at: dkarale.kas@gmail.com. Or by telephone at: +886 (02) 8237-7228 Online issues and archives can be viewed at our website: www.tcss.org. Š Copyright 2018 by the Center for Security Studies. Articles in this periodical do not necessarily represent the views of either the TCSS, NDU, or the editors.

From The Editor


he editors and staff of Strategic Vision would like to wish our readers well this summer season. The AsiaPacific continues to undergo important developments. We hope that students and scholars in the academic community have the chance to keep-up with these events. In support of that effort, we offer our latest edition of Strategic Vision. We open this issue with Dr. Kerry Gershaneck, a visiting scholar at the Graduate Institute of East Asian Studies at National Chengchi University in Taiwan, who examines the PRC political warfare threat to Taiwan. Next, Dr. Christopher B. Roberts of the University of New South Wales argues that the Indo-Pacific needs greater unity to counter revisionism in the region. Robert McCoy, a retired Korean analyst, argues that the unresolved problem of Korean comfort women continues to undermine cooperation between Korea and Japan. Next, Lu Wen-hao of the ROC National Defense University argues that US policy is creating concerns in the Indo-Pacific Region. Finally, Dr. David Scott, a frequent lecturer at the NATO Defense College in Rome looks at the implications of the summit between US President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. We hope you enjoy this issue, and look forward to bringing you the finest analysis and reporting on the issues of importance to security in the Taiwan Strait and the Asia-Pacific region. Dr. Fu-Kuo Liu Editor Strategic Vision

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Strategic Vision vol. 7, no. 38 (June, 2018)

Creeping Threat PRC political warfare subverts Japan’s defense, undermines Taiwan security Kerry Gershaneck


rime Minister Shinzo Abe is the strongest prime minister to lead Japan in decades. He will need all his strength to defeat a political warfare campaign designed to subvert his urgently needed efforts to reform Japan’s security structure. A very small but powerful radical-left minority in Japan desires a weak, neutralized Japan. Nearby, hostile regimes benefit from and support these extremist, violent radicals. While the world in general benefits from an assertive and militarily capable Japan, the Republic of China (ROC) especially needs this from its northernmost neighbor. Japan and the ROC represent higher

manifestations of individual liberty, consensual government, and rule of law than most countries in the world. They demonstrate how free peoples can govern themselves and prosper in a very tough neighborhood – in close proximity to two of the world’s most ruthless communist regimes, China and North Korea. Furthermore, the ROC benefits from a Japan that works effectively with its only treaty ally, the United States of America. Their relationship looks good on paper, but there are vexing shortcomings in the security alliance and Japan’s defense structure. Just as important, US-Japan-ROC strategic communications efforts need to be better coordinated if they

photo: Ethan Miller An operations specialist logs information aboard guided-missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG 88) during the 2018 RIMPAC exercise consisting of 25 nations.

Professor Kerry Gershaneck is currently a scholar at the Graduate Institute of East Asian Studies, National Chengchi University and a guest lecturer at the ROC National Defense University.

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photo: Ignacio Perez A sailor mans the aft look-out watch aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS O’Kane (DDG 77) during the RIMPAC 2018 exercise.

are to fight efforts by both radical Japanese activists and People’s Republic of China (PRC) Political Warfare operations designed to disintegrate their democracies. Japan faces security challenges from most of its immediate neighbors. The most imminent challenge is the PRC—an expansionist, coercive, hyper-nationalistic, brutally repressive, authoritarian state. Japan is reminded daily, through the PRC’s bombastic propaganda, that the PRC is now militarily and economically powerful, eager to avenge Japan’s brutal past imperialism, and

Japan. Two other neighbors occupy lands and adjacent waters claimed by Japan: Russia seized Japan’s northern islands at Japan’s surrender in World War II, and South Korea seized Takeshima in 1954. As nuclear powers, Russia and North Korea, like the PRC, are each capable of destroying Japanese civilization within minutes. The status of the ROC also poses a serious challenge for Japan, in that a Chinese occupation of Taiwan would severely compromise Japan’s southern flank and lead to increased pressure on its territorial integrity. Economic, psychological, and oth-

planning to take Japan’s territory, iner damage from Taiwan going Red cluding the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, would also be severe. Given the exphoto: Kremlin.ru as well as the Ryukyu Island chain. isting political environment dictatJapanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Also in the neighborhood is North ed by Beijing, Japan is limited in its Korea: a slave state whose crimes against humanpublic cooperation with the ROC on common seity are well documented by the United Nations and curity issues. which also has intense historical grievances against The PRC threat to the ROC is well known. In the


He has ordered two revised National Defense Program Guidelines, revised the US-Japan Guidelines for Cooperative Defense, spearheaded the 2015 Legislation for Peace and Security, and pledged to amend Article IX of the Constitution to codify the Self-Defense Force’s existence. In addition, Abe is preparing a significant new Midterm Defense Plan that will guide defense projects essential to high-end warfare. While there are some genuine pacifists in Japan who sincerely question the need for defense reform, it is Japan’s radical activists (kagekiteki katsudoka) that generate the most hysteria. In their worldview, Abe’s efforts will end Japan’s pacifist tradition and lead it to fascism and rapacious regional conquest. But Japan is not pacifist, nor is Japan’s kagekiteki katsudoka. photo: Bonny Gassner Perhaps the most well-known of the A sailor lands after a static-line jump from an MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter. extreme leftist groups is Chukaku-ha, name of a so-called “China Dream,” the PRC wages or the Japan Revolutionary Communist League. Still an all-encompassing campaign to bring the ROC calling for world Marxist revolution, Chukaku-ha into its tender embrace. To this end, the PRC daily might be considered a descendant of Japan’s vioemploys economic, informational, political, and mililent leftist groups such as the well-known Japanese tary warfare. All these means are destabilizing and Red Army. Other anti-alliance organizations include demoralizing, but the military tool is the greatest Japan’s Socialist and Communist Parties, which are by concern: China’s President Xi Jinping has ordered the doctrine anti-military, anti-American, and pro-ChiPeoples Liberation Army to be able to invade Taiwan na, as well as labor unions, leftist lawyer groups, uniby 2020—just two years from now. versity academic groups, and radical student groups. Under these circumstances, Japan’s security is inextricably linked to Taiwan’s security, and vice verInternational role model sa. Consequently, Taiwan needs a militarily capable Japan, one with improved military interoperability Japan is now a peaceful nation. After a particularly with the United States. vicious era of near-genocidal rampage followed by Abe recognizes the threats facing Japan, and US military occupation and democratic reform, Japan has taken substantial steps to address shortfalls has not fought in a foreign war in 73 years. It has within his limited political maneuvering space. been a role model in international aid, foreign direct

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investment, and humanitarian actions. Despite its “peace constitution,” Japan quickly built a real military after North Korea (NK) invaded South Korea in 1950. At the request of UN forces, Japan dispatched minesweepers to support the fight. From early on, then, the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) was an armed force in the sense most nations understand the term.

Support for dictatorships In Japan, communists and other radical activists protested Tokyo’s support for the UN forces fighting NK-PRC-USSR aggression. As they protested Japan’s defense of South Koreans from one of the more oppressive, murderous states in world history, the kagekiteki katsudoka set their pattern for the Cold War and its aftermath: attack and undermine liberal democracies and provide support for communist dictatorships. They accuse democracies of militarism and fascist aggression, while ignoring (or defending) hyper-nationalistic, fascist aggression from commu-

nist dictatorships. The Japan-America Security Alliance (JASA) has provided security and prosperity to the Asia-Pacific region for nearly 60 years, and enabled the free world to win the Cold War against the Soviet Union. However, the JASA presently lacks a unified strategy to meet the threat from the PRC, and to support a democratic ROC.

“Japan and the United States could help the ROC defend itself by addressing the suffocating isolation that the PRC is inflicting on the embattled democracy.” Regarding Taiwan’s security, Japan and the United States could help the ROC defend itself by addressing the suffocating isolation that the PRC is inflicting on the embattled democracy. Overcoming this isolation requires authorizing considerable leeway for JASA’s military forces to engage with the ROC’s military. The JASA forces can do this separately and

photo: ROC Presidential Office The Fu Hsing Gang Political Warfare Academy, part of the ROC National Defense University, holds their annual graduation ceremony.


bilaterally, and can also conduct trilateral or even multilateral engagements, such as the biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise. Concurrently, the JSDF must become more effective. And JASA military forces must work better together. Japan still has not implemented a coherent national defense strategy and its forces face major shortfalls in funding, manpower, communications,

“There is not yet an alliance coordination mechanism that allows Japanese and US forces to interoperate effectively as there is in Korea and NATO.” doctrine, training, and weapons and equipment. Furthermore, there is not yet an alliance coordination mechanism that allows Japanese and US forces to interoperate effectively as there is in Korea and NATO. A solidly linked JSDF and US military that works with the ROC military would send a tremen-

dously strong message to Beijing that it cannot successfully coerce or threaten force against the ROC. This potential trilateral strength is one major reason why pro-PRC radical activists try so hard to undermine the alliance.

Political warfare Reasoned debate is desirable in any democracy, but faux pacifist attacks directed against Japan’s overdue defense efforts amounts to simple political warfare that supports the PRC’s larger drive for regional and, arguably, global hegemony. If, as Clausewitz wrote, “war is the extension of politics by other means,” then it is fair to say that the PRC’s political warfare (PW) is “an extension of armed conflict by other means.” A useful definition of PW is “those operations that seek to influence emotions, motives, objectives, reasoning, and behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups,

photo: Devan Gowans US Marines and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers pose for a group photograph at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.

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photo: Adam Montera US Marines fire a M777 towed 155 mm howitzer during live-fire training as part of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise in Hawaii.

and individuals in a manner favorable to the PRC’s objectives.” The PRC’s version of PW is an all-encompassing Total War. It goes beyond traditional liaison work (building coalitions in a United Front to support the PRC and to disintegrate enemies) and the Three Warfares (strategic psychological warfare, overt and covert media manipulation, and use of lawfare): PRC PW includes use of violence and other forms of forceful coercion.

ern part of the island. The pattern is well established, predictable, and blatantly hypocritical. Radical activist organizations operate news media outlets and anti-defense groups that consistently find fault with any efforts by Japan

To obstruct and paralyze The PRC’s PW has been especially effective over

to strengthen its defensive posture. However, they will never utter a word of criticism about similar activities engaged in by the PRC, including that

the past decade, particularly in weakening America’s status and alliances in Asia during the Obama administration. In Japan, it has successfully exploited anti-defense and anti-bases organizations to obstruct military reform and paralyze the long-delayed relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from crowded mid-Okinawa to the less-populated north-

country’s massive military buildup, illegal occupation of disputed islands, and ecological terrorism in destroying the South China Sea to build massive militarized islands that threaten all of Asia and Oceania. Another PW example is the contrived hysteria over Japan’s recent activation of a small JSDF am-

“Radical activists have violently attacked women and schoolchildren in vehicles driving on and off US military bases.”


photo: Devan Gowans Sailors assigned to guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG 104) heave a mooring line as the ship prepares for the underway phase of RIMPAC 2018.

phibious brigade. This unit can land only perhaps 600 JGSDF soldiers to re-capture a Japanese island occupied by a hostile force: 600 people is less than the number of passengers inside a single Tokyo Yamanote Line subway train at rush hour. However, the faux pacifists never mention that the PRC currently deploys a 30,000-strong Marine Corps, and has targeted an increase to 100,000 Marines in the near future. It is their use of violence, however, that earns these radical and disruptive groups the title faux pacifists and elevates their hypocrisy to a new level: members engage in physical assaults and military sabotage that equate to terrorism. Radical activists have violently attacked women and schoolchildren in vehicles driving on and off US military bases, physically harassed and verbally threatened Japanese and American base employees

and their families, and fired mortars against JSDF and US bases, including Yokota Air Base, home of the headquarters for the US 5th Air Force and the United Nations Rear Area Command for Korea. The kagekiteki katsudoka and their ilk have also

“The actions of Chukaku-ha and other faux pacifists actively support Chinese PW against both Japan and Taiwan.” attempted to cause aircraft to crash using lasers, balloons, kites, and construction cranes raised in front of aircraft landing approaches; they have booby-trapped military facilities such as fence lines; they have caused traffic accidents in front of base gates; and they have blocked off gates to interfere with essential emergency base functions. They have obstructed construction

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of new facilities needed for training and operations, and been successful in delaying construction of vital aviation facilities in northern Okinawa for nearly two decades. The actions of Chukaku-ha and other faux pacifists actively support Chinese PW against both Japan and Taiwan. Accordingly, the PRC invests in the radicals’ pro-Beijing, anti-defense campaigns. PRC tactics include entertaining and funding pliable politicians and hosting trips and visits to the PRC by eager Japanese officials. In Okinawa, another tactic has been to indoctrinate Okinawans and convince them that they are “from the same womb” as the Chinese; that is, to persuade them that their allegiance is to China and not Japan. Strategies also include establishing direct linkages between Okinawan and other Japanese news media and universities to CCP-directed counterparts, and heavy PRC investment in Hokkaido and Okinawa to develop political and economic lever-

age in what has been termed “a North-South Pinch.” Just as it is past time for Japan and the United States to fix the impediments to JASA military effectiveness, it is long past time for Japan to more openly confront the PRC-aligned radicals in terms of public information, and in terms of their financial and other relations with the PRC. Also, as Abe works to pass legislation for necessary security reforms, Japan, the United States, and the ROC should take the first steps to coordinate counter-PW activities. An immediate action would be to establish a Japan-ROC-US coordination mechanism to identify the ever-evolving PRC PW operations, and develop strategic communications, legal, and other responses to confront the common threat. Each country should begin PW counter-offensives, to include emulating Australia’s recent successful public exposure of PRC united front influence operations. n

photo: Adam Montera US Marines set up equipment during close air support training as part of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii.

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Strategic Vision vol. 7, no. 38 (June, 2018)

Weakened Resolve Solidarity needed in Indo-Pacific to counter China’s threat to the status quo Christopher B. Roberts


photo: Kremlin.ru Soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army of China march in a Moscow parade to mark the 70th anniversary of Victory in the Second World War.

ince the turn of the millennium, rising economic dependence has enabled Beijing to revise the nature of international relations and the rules-based order across much of the IndoPacific—an order that is underpinned by adherence to international treaty-based law. The rapidity of the associated shift in the balance of political and military power was, in part, also enabled by America’s

of re-engagement were undermined by, among other things, the Obama Administration’s pacifism vis-àvis China and then the election of Donald Trump as US President. The results include the consolidation of revisionist policies in breach of international law, unchecked coercion against other regional states, and reduced confidence in the US security umbrella. To this end, the rules-based order has gradually eroded,

neglect of the region during its War on Terror and then the 2007-2008 global economic crisis. Despite the implicit acknowledgement of this neglect via the US Pivot to Asia (later “Rebalance”), both attempts

and a more anarchical and militaristic environment is filling the void. The collapsing regional order might have started with the War on Terror, but contending Asian per-

Associate Professor Christopher Roberts is Director of the National Asian Studies Centre at the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis,University of Canberra. He can be reached at chris.roberts@canberra.edu.au

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spectives regarding China and the United States have become increasingly polarized since the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Beijing’s early charm offensive has since been supplanted by more coercive actions and the most divisive issue, at least for East Asia, has been the territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Breaching SCS norms Despite engagement by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) since 1992, and Beijing’s agreement to the 2002 ASEAN Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), China has most significantly breached the norms of the DOC (e.g. by changing the status quo) and its legally binding treaty obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Regarding UNCLOS, Beijing’s illegal actions include breaching the sovereign rights of other claimant states by interfering with legitimate fishing activities; the use of armed coastguard vessels to

threaten other foreign vessels; the destruction of coral reefs; and the creation and subsequent militarization of large-scale artificial islands. China’s 2012 seizure of Scarborough Shoal from Manila was a watershed event for the Philippines, and for the region in general. The Obama administration’s attempt to negotiate a withdrawal by both Beijing and Manila from the shoal failed. The Philippine president also flew to Washington to plea for additional support, but none was forthcoming. The ultimate pivot point was Beijing’s rapid construction of over 3,200 acres of artificial islands from early 2013. Despite a reference to possible land reclamation in a Philippine news article on 31 July, 2013, and a single satellite image on a website administered by Jane’s Intelligence, comprehensive imagery of the artificial islands was not publicly available until February of 2015. By this time, the Five Eyes intelligence grouping (the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) had, whether intentionally or not, effectively eschewed international pressure to try and

photo: William McCann Sailors from the US Navy, Indian Navy and Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force pose during exercise Malabar 2018.


photo: Justin Pacheco Royal Australian Navy landing helicopter dock ship HMAS Adelaide (L01) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in preparation for RIMPAC 2018.

prevent the island construction (e.g. a naval blockade) as the substance of the island construction was by then a fait accompli. The Chinese government and its state-owned media claim that Beijing is a victim of unjustified containment policies by the United States and its allies. They point to developments like the stationing of marines on rotational deployment in Darwin, Australia, and, more recently, the Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) that have included entry within the 12 nautical mile territorial zone of disputed reefs and shoals in the Spratly sub-region of the South China Sea. However, there has been very little tangible containment of Beijing’s behavior. For some Asian nations, disappointment and concern stem from China’s refusal to comply with the July 2016 Arbitral Ruling under the auspices of UNCLOS, as well as the failure of the international community—primarily the United States—to take decisive action to deter Beijing’s flagrant breaches of international law and the rules-based order. In July 2017, reports emerged that Beijing had threatened to attack Vietnamese outposts in the Spratly region unless it ordered Repsol, a Spanish

oil drilling firm, to abandon its Red Emperor site in the seas extending from the Southwestern point of Vietnam. The Vietnamese government initially postponed Repsol’s extraction of oil, but by mid-March 2018, Hanoi believed it had no option other than to comply with Beijing’s demands despite a port visit by a US Navy Carrier a week earlier—the first in over 40 years. The possible loss of the South China Sea “in all scenarios short of war” for both the ASEAN claimant states and other stakeholder states supporting the rules-based order has been reflected in public statements from past and present senior US and Australian military officers.

Emboldening coercion The precedents from the South China Sea, together with Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, are likely to embolden states to undertake further coercive actions when diplomacy fails to secure their interests. For example, how might Beijing’s win in the South China Sea affect a future cost-benefit analysis associated with an invasion of Taiwan? Already, China will be noting assessments by US military analysts that

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Taiwan would need to defend itself for up to a month before US armed forces could launch a conventional military defense of the island—much longer than the

“Common threat perceptions led to a transient convergence of interests between India, Australia, Japan, and the United States.” two-day response time that existed at the height of US military preparedness. Rising aggression from Beijing is already evident across the Indo-Pacific, in the East China Sea, and along China’s borders with India and Bhutan. By June 2017, China’s provocations forced a toughening of the Australian and Indian positions. For example, at the June 2017 Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD), Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull stated that the region must preserve the rules based structure, stating, “[t]his means cooperation, not unilat-

eral actions to seize or create territory or militarize disputed areas … not winning through corruption, interference or coercion.” In India’s case, the author was resident in New Delhi a week later during the unfolding of the Doklam standoff where India’s broad stance on China toughened on a weekly basis. Here, some military observers started to believe that the South China Sea was of greater strategic importance, because if India could delay China’s control of the Sea then that, in turn, would delay China’s control of the Indian Ocean – i.e. that China does not have the capacity to undertake a significant two or three-ocean strategy.

Quad 2.0 As a result, common threat perceptions led to a transient convergence of interests between India, Australia, Japan, and the United States and a late2017 agreement to resurrect the former Quadrilateral

photo: US DoD Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull takes part in the 16th Shangri-La Dialogue Asia security conference held in Singapore, June 3, 2017.


Security Dialogue, dubbed Quad 2.0. The first iteration of this dialogue had previously collapsed in 2008 when, following pressure from Beijing, Australia unilaterally withdrew from the associated Malabar Exercise. The first leader’s meeting between the Quad 2.0 countries was held on the sidelines of the November 2017 East Asia Summit in Manila. Discussions included the maintenance of the rulesbased order, maritime security, and freedom of navigation and overflight. However, there was insufficient agreement on key issues for a joint communiqué.

states such as Indonesia. In the case of India, Prime Minister Modi has strengthened bilateral relations with Japan and transformed the country’s Look East policy to an Act East policy involving various projects, not the least of which is a US$1 billion line of credit for connectivity investments.

Challenging China’s rise

In addition to the United States, India and Japan have also been proactive in enhancing the military capacity of key Southeast Asian states through training, the supply of armaments, and much needed surveillance aircraft, navy patrol boats, and coastguard vessels. Problematically, mixed signals emerged in 2018 about the level of commitment to the Quad and broader resistance to Beijing’s transgressions. In late

Meanwhile, key democracies such as India and Japan have also sought to challenge China’s rising influence through initiatives for greater aid, trade, and investment. Tokyo, for example, maintains very good longterm relations with the ASEAN states, and Japan has noticeably increased its foreign direct investments to ensure it remains ahead of China in key pivot

“Trump’s transactionalist approach has, rightly or wrongly, contributed to a fear that he might agree to a grand bargain with China.”

photo: Presidential Press and Information Office Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping before the beginning of the BRICS Leaders’ meeting.

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graphic: Baomi

the four countries together, the Quad is not likely to tangibly affect the cost-benefit analysis conducted by Beijing. For example, during the same week as the IndiaChina Summit, and for the second time in two years, New Delhi rejected Canberra’s request to re-join the Malabar Exercises as an observer. Meanwhile, regional confidence in the United States is likely to be undermined further by the lingering effects of the Obama Administration’s reduction of the Southeast Asian security assistance budget by 19 percent over the period 2010-2015. Furthermore, in early 2018, the Trump Administration announced its plan to reduce global international security assistance by a further 24.4 percent. President Trump’s transactionalist approach has, rightly or wrongly, contributed to a fear that he might agree to a grand bargain with China (e.g. over trade and/or the Korean peninsula) and, in return for China’s cooperation, he might be willing to sacrifice the core interests of Asian states, including in the South China Sea. In the absence of stronger solidarity on the importance of the

April 2018, Prime Minister Modi held a Summit with China’s President Xi Jinping that was followed two weeks later by a trilateral summit between the leaders of Japan and South Korea and China’s Prime Minster Le Keqiang. Both summit meetings invoked noticeably warmer language, and in the case of the latter summit, Chinese state media declared it to have “… brought the estranged relations between China and Japan back onto the right track.” In the absence of Washington’s economic leadership through its abandonment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a mega Free Trade Agreement (FTA) covering 40 percent of global GDP – China, Japan, and South Korea agreed to speed up negotiations on anrules-based order, some countries other major FTA that excludes are becoming fatigued by the South the United States: the Beijing-led photo: Gage Skidmore China Sea issue. For these policy Regional Comprehensive Economic US President Donald Trump makers, there is newfound willingPartnership (RCEP). ness for ASEAN and China to simply agree to any Currently, there is much debate over the utility and Code of Conduct, even if it is on China’s terms. future of the Quad, but in the absence of significant This reveals a short-term focus on national selfUS leadership and/or an international shock to band


State Department photo US Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the 10 member-nations of ASEAN at the US-ASEAN Summit meeting in Brunei, on October 9, 2013.

interests, however, and an implicit prioritization of trade and material gain above principles and values. Finally, while the Trump administration declared its strategy for a free and open Indo-Pacific in March of 2018, this has been interpreted by some as hollow rhetoric, and there remains a desire for the strategy to be filled with more substantial action and valuesbased leadership.

Reinventing China As China has risen, Beijing has demonstrated an astounding capacity to reinvent itself domestically and internationally. To be sure, the achievements of the past few decades are unprecedented for such a populous country. So too is Beijing’s many challenges to the regional order including US leadership, norms, and international law. Based on the current trajectory, Asia’s post-World War II order is in its dying throes. Aside from missing US leadership and fortitude, the hesitance of other major and middle powers to more

collectively respond to regional threats is profoundly destabilizing; this will not change unless a far more harmonized view emerges concerning the key threats that confront all states supporting a rules-based order. Meanwhile, a potential trade war will undermine the liberal-economic order. Should this occur, regional order will only destabilize further. Assessments that the South China Sea is in fact lost to Beijing are debatable; they assume no significant shift in regional approaches on the issue. However, if the region fiercely worked together to change Beijing’s cost-benefit analysis, then positive

“A mutual defense pact is ultimately needed that guarantees a collective response to military attempts to change the status quo.” change can happen. To this end, the South China Sea needs a meaningful Code of Conduct, but ASEAN’s capacity to negotiate this is highly questionable.

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A sub-group of willing ASEAN states may need to negotiate the Code (absent the countries under Beijing’s influence) or key ASEAN claimants could alternatively forge a Code of Conduct with key nonASEAN stakeholder countries and present it as a fait accompli to Beijing.

More action needed Beyond the Code of Conduct, much more is needed including multinational FONOPs and Coast Guard patrols. The multinational Coastguard patrols could police and protect resources in the legally undisputed areas of a willing state’s EEZ. Furthermore, individually and sometimes collectively, countries need to respond to every propagandist statement from Beijing and its state-controlled media. The establishment of task groups to coordinate such statements could be established in willing countries. These activities can also be applied across the

Indo-Pacific. For this purpose, a strategic dialogue between supporters of the rules-based order (i.e. likeminded “stabilizer” states) is needed. Whether led by governments or by regional think tanks at a Track 1.5 level (as a first step), such a dialogue could help with the coordination of multilateral activities and serve as a platform for more robust signaling to Beijing. Based on this paper’s assessments, a mutual defense pact is ultimately needed that guarantees a collective response to military attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea, the North Natuna Sea, and along India’s border. The region cannot expect or depend on the United States to defend Asia on its own: should the rules-based states of the Indo-Pacific act together, this may entice the United States to more substantially and constructively re-engage with the region. A failure on either front will signal to Beijing that it will benefit from future coercive or military actions in other regional arenas. n

photo: Michael Smith Flags from the US and various ASEAN nations are displayed during the 2018 ASEAN Regional Forum workshop on risk mitigation in Pasay City, Philippines.

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Shattered Lives

Ongoing comfort women dispute stands in way of Tokyo-Seoul cooperation Robert McCoy


he search for a satisfactory deal between Japan and South Korea to resolve the issue of Japan’s use of sex slaves during World War II has smoldered in Northeast Asia for more than 70 years. The lingering enmity sabotages much-needed cooperation between Seoul and Tokyo on shared regional issues such as coordinating efforts against North Korea. That lack of multilateral teamwork makes it all that much harder to effectively implement sanctions against Pyongyang, address the threats from the North’s missiles, and dealing with Kim Jong Un’s illicit income-generating activities worldwide. Yet

Japan and Korea see these concerns through different sets of eyes. Understanding why this is so requires knowledge of the history of the region. Particularly in Asia, the past is prologue for the future, and it is the context in which the present unfolds. During the Japanese occupation of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 through the end of World War II, as many as 200,000 girls and young women—the vast majority of whom were Korean—were forced to serve as sex slaves, euphemistically termed “comfort women,” for soldiers and officers of the Imperial Japanese military. This issue has been festering since end of World

photo: Claire Solery Protesters gather in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to prostest Japan’s handling of the issue of comfort women.

Robert McCoy is a retired US Air Force Korean linguist and analyst who was stationed in Asia for more than 14 years. He can be reached through his website at http://musingsbymccoy.com

Shattered Lives  b 21

Japanese Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida and members of the Japanese envoy sign the Treaty of San Francisco in 1951.

War II, and even though the Allies knew that there had been comfort women, it apparently was never examined during negotiations to formally end the war via the Treaty of San Francisco in 1951 between Japan and its former enemies. Neither North Korea nor South Korea was invited to participate in those negotiations.

When Japan and South Korea finally normalized relations in 1965 after 14 long years of negotiation, the issue was again left unaddressed—at least not publicly. However, there are known to be a multitude of related documents that have not been revealed. Other

In Korea, a strongly Confucian society despite recent overlays of Christianity, chastity outside of marriage was valued more highly than life itself, and women who were not pure were expected to commit suicide. Those who did not would live as outcasts. There is also the additional loss of honor for having “served” the enemy. It was a double whammy that kept the issue a taboo topic for nearly five decades. One brave sex slave, facing her own mortality, finally came forward, and she was soon followed by others. They had decided that their stories had to be told before they and their hidden histories passed into oblivion. The issue gathered momentum, slowly at first, but now it is a major concern in South Korea, and a serious thorn in the side of the American desire

sources discuss additional evidence that has not been widely disseminated. The issue of comfort women was clearly intended to stay hidden from public view. Only in the 1990s did surviving Korean comfort women begin to hesitantly come forward. Why then? One must first consider the social stigma of being identified as a sex slave for Imperial Japanese troops.

for closer cooperation between Seoul and Tokyo on matters of significance in Northeast Asia. Things finally came to a head in 2015 after some years of failed attempts to get closure, when the U.S. impatiently requested better cooperation between Korea and Japan on dealing with the problem of North Korea. The comfort women issue was an un-

Hidden from view


photo: Amber I. Smith US Secretary of Defense James Mattis meets with South Korean Minister of Defense Song Young-moo in Seoul.

welcome obstacle to improved political collaboration and military coordination between Seoul and Tokyo. Washington felt that the need to work together against Pyongyang outweighed the need for this simmering problem to be properly resolved. Great pressure was brought to bear by Washington on both countries that culminated in an arrangement between Seoul and Tokyo on December 28, 2015. Both parties wearily and warily stated that the issue had finally been laid to rest.

Final and irreversible The agreement, in the form of separate statements from each of the foreign ministers of the two countries (as opposed to a joint communiqué) called for Japan to make an apology and contribute a billion yen, or about US$8.3 million, toward the care of the surviving comfort women. Importantly, each side agreed that the pact was a “final and irreversible” closure to the issue. It was a hurried end to a longstanding issue.

Unfortunately, almost before the echoes of the parallel announcements had faded, some of the remaining comfort women stridently objected, saying that they had not been consulted, that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had not really apologized, and that Japan had not fully accepted responsibility for its criminal wartime behavior. Consequently, it is not surprising that the deal unraveled, and Seoul has bowed to public pressure to inform Japan that the settlement is not acceptable to Koreans. Adding fuel to the fire, the UN Committee Against Torture subsequently urged the two countries to renegotiate their flawed agreement. It was hoped that the two sides would bring the issue into full public view and get it done right at last. Indeed, according to one report, South Korea and Japan did agree to review the accord with the intent to resolve the lingering issue in a “future-oriented manner.” Another accounting, however, states that while the two sides sought a “third way,” abandoning the deal or even renegotiating it was specifically excluded. As to what was meant by “third way” was not further elaborated.

Shattered Lives  b 23

Recently, more evidence of Japan’s guilt in forcing young Korean women into prostitution has been unearthed, and now a number of women’s organizations from both North and South Korea are calling for the deal with Japan to be scrapped. Seoul has been forced to take a strong stand on the issue based on overwhelming public outcry. To make matters worse, the foundation established in South Korea to handle the disbursement of funds provided by Tokyo as part of the 2015 settlement may be foundering. In what may be the telling blow, the UN Commission on Human Rights lowered its evaluation of Japan’s less-than-satisfactory performance in facing its legal and moral responsibilities for the wartime atrocities committed by Imperial Japan. Those findings were recently presented to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights held in Geneva. Much is made of how Germany repented for its wartime atrocities, and some hold that European nation up as a model for how to resolve the impasse on com-

fort women that has plagued Korea and Japan relations for decades. The few surviving comfort women deserve a return of some measure of their dignity, and many believe that this can only be brought about by the Japanese prime minister completely and unambiguously affirming previous Japanese administrations’ statements, fully apologizing, and accepting responsibility.

“The comfort women issue continues to poison relations between Japan and Korea ever since the issue became public more than two decades ago.” However, the nationalistic stance of the current Japanese prime minister makes such an outcome unlikely, at least in the near term. Moreover, admitting Japan’s egregious war crime past would damage the honor of Prime Minister Abe’s maternal grandfather, who was arrested and imprisoned, though but

photo: Dean Karalekas The entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Germany’s post-war repentance is often held as a model for how to resolve the comfort women issue.


photo: YunHo Lee A statue in Seoul serves as a sad reminder of the continuing search for justice on the part of former comfort women.

not prosecuted, as a Class-A war criminal. Thus, the obstacles to Japan’s full atonement seem insurmountable at present. The comfort women issue continues to poison relations between Japan and Korea ever since the issue became public more than two decades ago. It is therefore likely that Seoul and Tokyo will engage in only minimal cooperation and coordination in addressing serious regional problems. The repugnant history between the two nations will not easily be put to rest. Now, the issue is even harming relations between Japan and the United States. After San Francisco became the third US city to install a comfort women statue, the nationalistic mayor of Osaka, a Japanese sister city to San Francisco, stated that he would sever those ties. Some reports about dissatisfaction by comfort women over the 2015 deal point out that protests against the agreement were by only a very vocal minority. Moreover, South Korean President Moon Jae-in ultimately chose to not attempt to renegotiate

the flawed agreement, noting that the pact had been signed by both countries. Nonetheless, in a move to counter perceptions that Tokyo’s money settled the comfort women issue with a payoff, Seoul will not draw any further on the funds provided by Tokyo. Instead, South Korea’s own money will be used, due

“The moral high road taken by Seoul has not put this issue to rest as it continues to affect relations between the two countries.” to Japan not having admitted legal responsibility for its part in the sex slave dispute. Tokyo continues to insist that the comfort women were not coerced by Imperial Japan into providing sexual services, and that Japan has already provided funds as a show of sympathy for surviving comfort women. The Abe administration remains adamant that its apologies are enough, despite the wording that avoids admitting legal or moral responsibility.

Shattered Lives  b 25

The moral high road taken by Seoul has not put this issue to rest as it continues to affect relations between the two countries. On a number of occasions, South Korea has declined to participate in joint military exercises involving Japan and the United States. This is most unfortunate, for what Tokyo brings to the mix is, among other things, expertise in submarine tracking—especially useful as submarines are a common North Korean method of inserting commando troops into South Korea.

US intermediary Moreover, despite having common concerns about North Korea’s missiles and the potential for conflict spreading throughout Northeast Asia, intelligencesharing between Seoul and Tokyo is not as timely as it should be. There is no direct exchange of information, with analysis and reporting having to go through the United States as intermediary.

More recently, with President Moon having pulled off the extraordinary diplomatic feat of getting Pyongyang and Washington to agree to a summit meeting, Japan’s Prime Minister Abe is worried about being left out. To that point, Abe has had to swallow a bit of nationalistic pride in asking Moon to act as mediator in setting up a North Korea-Japan summit. For his part, Moon is willingly to serve in that capacity, and it is possible that this could act as another motivator to finally resolve the issue of comfort women. However, it seems that Abe’s position is to stonewall the issue until all comfort women have died, in the hopes that the problem will die with them. Regardless, the issue remains unsettled, and it does not bode well for the level of collaboration needed in dealing with North Korea. That is most unfortunate for everyone, not least of which are the few remaining comfort women themselves who will not have ever received closure on this ugliest of all possible chapters in their lives. n

photo: Dean Karalekas View of the Joint Security Area in the DMZ looking towards Freedom House. Relations between North and South have thawed somewhat in recent months.

26  b 

Strategic Vision vol. 7, no. 38 (June, 2018)

Creating Concern New US National Security Strategy raising concerns among allies in Asia Lu Wen-hao


n 18 December, 2017, the US government unveiled the first National Security Strategy (NSS) of the administration of President Donald Trump. This report not only translated Trump’s core mantra of America First into policy, it also distanced itself from key aspects of the security strategy principles adopted during the Obama era. The most significant difference between Trump’s NSS and that of his predecessor is the different interpretation of competition and cooperation in the international security order. Opposing the traditional US framework of cooperation, the policy aims to safeguard US interests through competition. Moreover,

the current NSS replaces the term Asia-Pacific, which was the standard used by prior US administrations to conceptualize the region, to Indo-Pacific. Undoubtedly, this is a reflection of the new approach already adopted by the Trump administration and will have a profound impact on Asia’s security environment under his America First strategic guideline.

America First Trump’s first strategic document identifies itself as an America First National Security Strategy. The America First slogan was used by Trump during the

photo: Government of Japan US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meet for talks in Washington, D.C.

Colonel Wen-hao Lu is an instructor at the ROC War College at the National Defense University. He can be reached for comment at luwenhao73@gmail.com

Creating Concern  b 27

2016 presidential campaign. Trump has continually sold this idea to the public since taking office. Thus, America First is the theme that guides and shapes Trump’s first NSS. According to the NSS, America First is based on a view that peace, security, and prosperity depend on strong, sovereign nations that respect their citizens at home and cooperate to advance peace abroad. Moreover, it is grounded in the realization that American principles are a lasting force for good in the world.

Four pillars The report states that there are four vital national interests, or four pillars, in this competitive world under America First principles. They are protecting the American people, the homeland, and the American way of life, promoting American prosperity, preserving peace through strength, and advancing American influence. In order to strengthen these pillars, the Trump administration seeks to reinforce border control and immigration reform for homeland security, to emphasize fair and reciprocal bilateral trade relations, and to revitalize US defensive capability, which was ignored by former President Obama. It also emphasizes that allies cannot simply rely on US protection without paying their fair share of defense expenditures. Judging from these policies and measures, it is evident that the foundation of America First basically safeguards the nation’s interests and points out the existing problems and challenges the United States is facing from a realist perspective. The most striking difference in the new National Security Strategy from previous administrations are its fundamental assumptions about competition and cooperation in the international system. Across different administrations from both political parties, Washington has traditionally framed its foreign policy as one of at least aspirational cooperation. Under the new strategy, however, the United States has en-

tered a new era of zero-sum competition. As Trump’s NSS states, “A central continuity in history is the contest for power. The present period is no different.” For example, compare the frequency of some key terms in the 2017 version to averages calculated from previous iterations from 1997 to 2015. Historically, on average, the US National Security Strategy uses the terms “cooperation” and “cooperate” a little over 50 times, and the terms “competition” and “compete” about eight times in each document. Trump’s iteration is strikingly inverted: Cooperative terms are used 35 times less and competitive terms are used 22 times more than the historical average. Since at least 1997, past documents have always talked more about cooperation than competition—roughly seven cooperative terms for every one competitive term. Trump’s is the first and only strategy since at least the Clinton administration to flip the balance. Trump’s NSS also criticizes the international order, which is based on the premise of cooperation, and believes that this order has buoyed more rising powers which are able to challenge US hegemony in the world. For instance, the new NSS reads: “for decades, US policy was rooted in the belief that sup-

“Trump’s NSS also criticizes the international order, which is based on the premise of cooperation, and believes that this order has buoyed more rising powers which are able to challenge US hegemony.” port for China’s rise and for its integration into the post-war international order would liberalize China. Contrary to our hopes, China expanded its power at the expense of the sovereignty of others. China gathers and exploits data on an unrivaled scale and spreads features of its authoritarian system, including corruption and the use of surveillance. It is building the most capable and well-funded military in the


world, after our own. Its nuclear arsenal is growing and diversifying.” The Trump administration appears to believe that the United States has to prepare for competition from rising powers, strengthen the nation’s capacity to meet this challenge, protect US interests, and promote American values. Although Trump seems to agree that competition does not always mean hostility, nor does it inevitably lead to conflict, an America that can compete successfully is the best way to prevent conflict. Just as American weakness invites challenge, American strength and confidence deters war and promotes peace. About a month after the NSS was released, Trump made his first visit to Asia as president. His longest overseas trip since taking office, the 12-day tour took him to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines, as well as attending the APEC summit in Vietnam. In Japan and South Korea, Trump expressed his appreciation to leaders in Tokyo and Seoul for buying US military equipment, pointing out that these arms sales will help to reduce the trade deficit

with the two countries. He further suggested that Japan and South Korea should procure more weapons from the United States.

Trade deficit Expanded arms sales in East Asia might be helpful for the US effort to counter the growing ballistic missile threat from North Korea. However, it also highlights Trump’s preoccupation with unfair trade deals in global trade issues and his America First emphasis since taking office. Mira Rapp-Hooper, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, observed after Trump’s Asia trip that the trade deficit and North Korea issues dominate the president’s Asia strategy. In fact, Trump evinces very little interest in taking the lead in Asia. As a result of Washington’s explicit focus on America First, US allies in the region are reported to have lost faith in their longtime security guarantor. Japan, Australia and South Korea all registered a decline in their approval of US leadership over previous years

photo: Kenneth Abbate Sailors participate in a 5K run on the flight deck of the Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76).

Creating Concern  b 29

from this new NSS report. The principle of Peace through Strength, which was implemented by President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, appears to have inspired Trump’s military moves in the region. For example, Trump has repeatedly criticized Obama’s policy of Strategic Patience over North Korea’s provocative nuclear and missile tests, and has instead used a mixture of threats of force and enticements to talk in order to achieve a level of progress on denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula that would have been unthinkable just a year ago. On trade, the American First guideline suggests that Trump will focus on renegotiating bilateral trade agreements and eschew the multilateral freephoto: AFGE trade model. Moreover, in orUS citizens rally against the TPP, arguing it favors corporations and was negotiated in secret. der to boost industrial producaccording to a 2017 Gallup report. Moreover, Trump’s tion in the United States and create jobs, Trump must withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) find a way to solve the problem of the enormous trade and his shift in focus toward bilateral reciprocal trade deficit. In early March of 2018, Trump said that the may undermine US economic and strategic power in United States would apply duties of 25 percent on imAsia. This would open the door for Beijing to step in ported steel, and 10 percent on aluminum, in order to and increase Chinese influence over the governments protect US producers. He later tweeted “Trade wars in the region, with an eye to replacing Washington as are good, and easy to win.” It is clear that, in order to the prime mover in setting regional norms. In a postachieve his nation’s interests, Trump will not hesitate rebalancing era, China may find it easier to build an to launch a trade war that will impact much of Asia. Asian order in its own image if it can fill a vacuum created by US failure to maintain the regional order Including Taiwan it first took the lead in establishing. In short, Trump’s future Asian policy is observTrump’s NSS also distances itself from that of his preable in terms of its military and economic aspects decessor by taking into account the Taiwan Relations


photo: ROC Presidential Office Soldiers in the ROC Army’s 601st Air Assault Brigade stand by an American-made AH-64E Apache during an official ceremony.

Act, which is not even mentioned in Obama’s NSS. Without a doubt, this will be a great help for Taiwan’s survival and development in the Asian region, especially if relations between Taipei and Washington move in a positive direction. However, Trump, as an extremely successful businessman and negotiator, is good at the give-and-take approach. For example, on 2 December, 2016, before taking office, Trump took a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, making it the first telephone conversation between a sitting president in Taiwan and a US president (or president-elect) since Washington broke official diplomatic relations with Taipei in 1979. The phone call was followed by statements from Trump which seemed to question the continued usefulness of the One-China policy. Unexpectedly, Trump later made a turnaround statement to honor the One-China policy during a conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and ruled out the possibility of talking again with Taiwan’s elected leader. This incident explicitly demonstrates Trump’s negotiation skills. In other words, the problem is that Trump has a very transactionalist, deals-

based approach, and so there is little dependability or predictability. The administration of Taiwan’s President Tsai responded positively to Trump’s Asia policy by including Taiwan as a participant in the Indo-Pacific strategy when she met with Chairman James Moriarty of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT). It offers significant potential for the country’s national defense, diplomacy, and economy if Taiwan is able to join the Indo-Pacific strategy. Meanwhile, Taiwan can also contribute to that strategy. As a nation located in East Asia, Taiwan’s economy dominates many key domains globally in the public sphere, such as communications, regional transportation, and the Internet. Moreover, Taiwan understands China perhaps better than any other country, and is able to provide indepth observations and analysis of China’s strategy. All of these advantages could be leveraged to help support the Indo-Pacific approach. Nevertheless, given President Trump’s unpredictable behavior pattern, and the idea of America First, Taiwan should be cautious during this era of regional competition between China and the United States. n

b 31

Strategic Vision vol. 7, no. 38 (June, 2018)

Pursuing Peace

Summits and personal diplomacy transform dynamics on Korean peninsula David Scott

photo: Dan Scavino Jr Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un share a lighthearted moment during their historic meeting at the Singapore summit.


egional relationships in and around the Korean peninsula have dramatically changed in the first half of 2018. Back in September 2017, following its sixth nuclear test, North Korea seemed totally isolated, including from China, with explicit talk of military intervention by the United States reaching a high pitch. Personal insults between leaders Kim Jong Un and Donald

and between North Korea and the United States. In his New Year Address, Kim Jong Un suggested “we should improve the frozen inter-Korean relations” and welcomed the Winter Games due to be held in South Korea in 2018. Discussions moved rapidly between Korean officials, with 9 January bringing the announcement that a unified “Korean” team would be fielded at the Winter Olympics.

Trump compounded this toxic atmosphere. Yet the first six months of 2018 transformed the situation, leading to unexpected summits between North Korea and South Korea, between North Korea and China,

North Korean participation was modest: 10 ice skaters, skiers and hockey players. The symbolism and imagery was striking, however. North Korean athletes received a warm welcome to participate under

Dr. David Scott is a regular presenter on Indo-Pacific geopolitics at the NATO Defense College in Rome and a prolific writer. He can be reached for comment at davidscott366@outlook.com


a common Korean identity, with South and North Korean participants marching under a single, albeit unnamed, banner depicting the Korean peninsula rather than one or the other respective national flag. The North Korean cheerleading team, which the media dubbed the “army of beauties” also caught the public’s attention. As the unified Korean team marched into the Olympic Stadium, footage of Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea’s leader, seemingly spontaneously warmly shaking hands with South Korea’s leader Moon Jae In became one of the defining moments of the games, not least because it also showed US Vice President Mike Pence, with a reserved countenance, sitting nearby. The visit to North Korea by National Security Director Chung Eui Yong and his 5 March meeting there with Kim Jong Un cleared the path for the first summit meeting between the North and South Korean leaders on 27 April. The symbolism was clear when Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae In shook hands across the armistice line drawn in the middle of the road, with both leaders hand in hand stepping over

the line into each other’s country. This quickly became another well-circulated image. The Panmunjom Declaration agreed to by the two leaders included pledges to establish a joint liaison office, to encourage cooperation, exchanges, and contacts, to completely cease all hostile acts against each other, and to work toward a nuclear-free Korean peninsula. Propaganda barrages alongside the demilitarized zone were to be stopped as of 1 May, unity celebrations were planned for 15 June, a joint team was agreed upon for the 2018 Asian Games, and President Moon agreed to visit the North Korean capital in the autumn. Regular meetings between the two leaderships was also agreed to and quickly acted upon, with a second meeting held between Kim and Moon on 26 May, on the North Korean side of the village, where Moon was greeted by a formal honor guard. Discussions remained friendly, with both leaders reaffirming the Panmunjom Declaration, and welcoming the forthcoming US-North Korea summit that by then had been set for 12 June. By the end of 2017, a glacial period in Chinese-North Korean relations had become apparent. Official contact had virtually collapsed, and Chinese criticism of North Korean nuclear testing had been matched by reluctant but tangible rising economic sanctions put in place by Beijing under Western pressure. Needless to say, there had been no meetings between Xi and Kim. However, China reacted quickly to the thawing of relations witnessed at the Winter Olympics in early March. With no prior warnphoto: Stefan Krasowski ing, it emerged that Kim Jong Un A North Korean ballistic missile on the streets of Pyongyang during North Korea Victory Day 2013. visited China from 25-28 March.

Pursuing Peace  b 33

photo: Dana Hill South Korean and American fighter pilots step to their jets for takeoff during the Buddy Wing program on March 11 at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea.

Kim’s appearance in Beijing had the trappings of a state visit, complete with an honor guard and banquet at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. China was clearly not comfortable with the idea of Kim meeting with Moon and Trump before ever having met with Xi. From China’s point of view, it risked being left out in the cold, while for North Korea this represented a crucial moment in establishing some sort of common position with Beijing before entering into discussions with the United States. It was clear in the 28 March official summary by Xinhua that both leaders felt that it was a matter of “strategic choice and strategic communications for the two countries to strengthen coordination.” By coordination, Xinhua meant the coordination of positions in the forthcoming North Korea-US talks. Again, images were readily available: Kim and wife Ri Sol Ju side by side with Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan; Kim and Xi inspecting the ceremonial guard; and warm smiles around the banquet table. An invitation for Xi to visit North Korea in 2018 was made and accepted, which would represent the first such trip by a Chinese leader since Deng Xiaoping’s visit

back in 1982. The pace of discussions accelerated as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited North Korea on 3 May. This was then followed less than a week later by a second visit—again without any warning, and only confirmed afterwards—which took place in northern China between Kim and Xi, on the coast at Dalian from 7-8 May. The image for the world media was deliberate; smiling neighbors casually strolling together along the beach, but with coordination of tactics vis-à-vis the United States prominent in both leaders’ mind. On 11 March, South Korea National Security Advisor Chung Eui Yong, fresh from his meeting with Kim Jong Un on 5 March, passed an invitation on to Trump to meet with the North Korean Leader. To widespread surprise, Trump accepted on the spot. The next few months had their own moments of drama. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held secret talks in North Korea, including with Kim Yong Chol and Kim Jong Un in early April, with a second more public trip and discussions with both of them on 8-9 May. His return, with three previously detained US


citizens, was met with a warm response from Trump upon their arrival back in the United States on 10 May. “We want to thank Kim Jong Un, who really was excellent,” Trump said. It was then agreed that a summit would be held on 12 June in Singapore. The road to the Trump-Kim summit was not straightforward. Harsh comments from North Korea—calling National Security Advisor John Bolton “repugnant” and Vice President Mike Pence a “political dummy.” The regime in North Korea was also angry over analogies with Libya being drawn (in effect, suggesting a regime change is in the cards), led to Trump issuing a letter on 24 May cancelling the summit: “based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this longplanned meeting.”

Momentum resumed when North Korean envoy Kim Yong Chol visited the United States, bringing with him a friendly letter addressed to Trump, whereupon preparations resumed for the 12 June summit. “We’re meeting with the chairman on 12 June and I think it’s probably going to be a very successful, ultimately a successful process,” Trump announced. Both sides accepted the principle of denuclearization, but appeared to have defined the term in different ways. For the United States, it was with specific regard to North Korea, but for North Korea, the term had wider scope and covered the entire Korean peninsula, incorporating even the US nuclear shield.

North Korea and the United States finally took place. The US mantra, reiterated by Pompeo on 11 June, was that North Korean denuclearization must be “complete, verifiable, and irreversible.” The imagery was certainly striking: two world leaders who had traded insults throughout 2017, now trading handshakes and smiles. Talks were direct, and face-to-face, with only translators present, before giving way to further discussions with advisers in attendance: Mike Pompeo and John Bolton on the US side; Kim Yo Jong and Kim Yong Chol on the North Korean side. A formal four-point declaration was signed by both leaders. The rhetoric in it was certainly blazing, “an epochal event of great significance in overcoming decades of tensions and hostilities between the two countries and for the opening up of a new future.” The heart of the document was an explicit trade-off whereby “President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” Only time will tell whether North Korea actually moves forward on its side of the trade-off concerning denuclearization. It should be noted that Pompeo’s “complete, verifiable and irreversible” conditions, enunciated on 11 June, were translated in the Joint Statement on 12 June into just “complete,” with “verifiable” and “irreversible” noticeably absent. In Trump’s own extended press meeting, his sense that he thought South Korea and Japan would “help them [North Korea] very greatly” finance the cost

Expectations were being managed on the American side, as Trump made a point of saying they would not necessarily agree to anything, and it was more of a “get to know you” sort of initial meeting. A symbolic ending to the war was mooted as an achievable immediate object. On 12 June, this quite unexpected summit between

of denuclearization may have come as a surprise to South Korea and Japan. Japan may also have had misgivings about the agreement making no mention of Japanese abductees and seeming to deal only with long-range missiles that affect the United States but not the medium-range missiles that threaten Japan.

Preparations resume

Pursuing Peace  b 35

Trump’s announcement that the United States would freeze joint military exercises with South Korea may have reassured the North, but it almost certainly worried elements in South Korea. This was exacerbated by Trump’s characterization of these exercises as “provocations” to North Korea, and that he would “like to be able” to withdraw the 32,000 US troops currently based in South Korea. Japan, too, would feel the security implications of the removal of the US troops in South Korea, whereas China immediately welcomed the idea. In effect, this pointed to a decoupling of the US shield for South Korea, and potentially for Japan in a US retreat from the Asian mainland. Any long-term weakening of the US presence on the Asian mainland would represent a significant strengthening of China’s own long-term position in the region. Of course, if North Korea goes down the denuclearization road, then South Korea, Japan and the United States will have benefited from the Kim-Trump summit; with North Korea able to look forward to economic reconstruction and regime survival.

North Korea comes out the clear winner, as the very holding of these summits have already generated unprecedented international legitimacy for the country, no longer a pariah state, as indicated in passing by Kim’s amicable discussions with the Singapore government on 11 June. Kim Jong Un’s two summits with China in March and April 2018 have also made it extremely unlikely that China would continue the sanctions that it had reluctantly agreed to in 2017. A further fracturing on the sanctions front is represented by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s visit to North Korea on 31 March, which brought Putin’s warmest regards to Kim, followed by a specific invitation on 4 June for Kim to meet Putin and attend the Eastern Economic Forum to be held in Vladivostok in September 2018. Consequently, even if Kim does not denuclearize, he can expect practical support from China and Russia. Regime survival is indicated in that scenario. Much of the US leverage has already gone. There lies the danger for Washington. The region waits, and either way, both North Korea and China smile. n

photo: Russian Ministry for Foreign Affairs Kim Jong Un, Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of North Korea, receiving Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Pyongyang, May 31, 2018.

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Strategic Vision, Issue 38  

Strategic Vision is a journal jointly published by the Taiwan Center for Security Studies and the ROC National Defense University that provi...

Strategic Vision, Issue 38  

Strategic Vision is a journal jointly published by the Taiwan Center for Security Studies and the ROC National Defense University that provi...

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