Issues & Insights Vol. 19, WP 14 – The Gray Zone Issue: Implications for US-China Relations

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The issue of gray zone conflict between the US and China has attracted much attention in recent years. “Gray” indicates actions below the threshold of war, yet beyond normal diplomacy. The fundamental characteristics of gray zone activity include that they are well-planned, designed to be ambiguous amid strategic competition, and intended to leave opponents unable to launch an effective response. What demands special attention is that gray zone activity could cause unintended escalation, and that assertive responses to them may not be the best option. For instance, the United States’ gray zone retaliation to China’s activities in the South China Sea is hardly helpful to contain China’s activities, but certainly slow the pace of resolving the South China Sea dispute through negotiation and dialogue and jeopardize bilateral strategic stability.

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Issues & Insights Vol. 19, WP 13: Promoting the Well-Being of North Korea’s Residents and Refugees through US-ROK Cooperation

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Under extreme poverty and political repression, many North Koreans endure systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations, along with a protracted, entrenched humanitarian crisis. Many are malnourished and lack clean water, proper sanitation and basic health care. Young children, pregnant women, people with disabilities and the elderly have become the most vulnerable to such privations. These deplorable conditions are exacerbated by continued denial of human rights, including torture and other inhumane treatment, political imprisonment, public executions and suppression of speech, information, religion and movement. A former United Nations high commissioner for human rights described North Korea’s human rights situation as “incomparable . . .  anywhere in the world, past or present.” And Thomas Buergenthal, a former International Criminal Court judge and survivor of Auschwitz, described the conditions in North Korean prison camps as “terrible, or even worse, than Nazi camps.”

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Issues & Insights Vol. 19, WP12 – The Missing Link in Understanding South Korea’s Foreign Policy: Panmunjom Declaration and Beyond

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The Republic of Korea has chosen its alignment strategies and policy actions based on international dynamics and domestic constraints. South Korea’s domestic politics have had different effects on the recent administrations. Park Geun-hye had to accept the discontinuity of her foreign policy when she faced impeachment. Moon Jae-in, however, has pursued his dreams for inter-Korean relations despite systemic and domestic obstacles. In the spirit of neoclassical realism, this study identifies state-society relations and domestic institutions as key interventions in the calculus of foreign policy behavior amidst the critical influence of systemic variables. Whereas the Park administration disregarded the dynamics of domestic politics by putting state security above all else, the Moon administration has pursued a détente policy with a deep awareness of domestic politics. In a restrictive strategic environment, South Korea’s policy options are limited and the optimal choices are not necessarily the ideal ones. Foreign policy actions based on the dynamics of systemic structures and domestic politics have significant implications for Northeast Asia. State-society relations and domestic institutions have implications for the US-South Korea-Japan strategic triangle. Different strategic interests in the region place the triangle at risk in dealing with the North Korean security problem.

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Issues & Insights Vol. 19, WP11: Evolving DPRK Nuclear Doctrine

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This paper investigates how an emerging nuclear weapon state—the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)—establishes and develops its nuclear doctrine upon completion of its nuclear arsenal. Since DPRK’s first nuclear crisis in the early 1990s and its first nuclear test in 2006, the nuclear nonproliferation community has focused on how to dismantle DPRK’s nuclear weapons program. Only recently have scholars focused on managing to live with a nuclear North Korea, shifting attention from nonproliferation to defense and deterrence. However, little scholarship has been produced vis-à-vis DPRK’s nuclear doctrine due to the lack of information and concern over recognizing DPRK as a nuclear weapon state. Understanding DPRK’s nuclear doctrine offers insights to developing an appropriate deterrence and defense strategy, as well as ways to revise strategies to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. Discerning DPRK’s nuclear doctrine not only contributes to the understanding of current security challenges on the Korean Peninsula, but more importantly offers an opportunity to expand scholarship on nuclear strategy.

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Issues & Insights Vol. 19, WP10 – Examining the Divergence in State and Civic Engagements: How Bilateral Tourism Can Help Facilitate Reconciliation between South Korea and Japan

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South Korea-Japan relations demonstrate some of the most conflicting dynamics in East Asia, encompassing historical, political and diplomatic disagreements. Analyses tend to follow a top-down analytical framework and focus on state-to-state relations. However, more work should examine how civic engagement via tourism is vital to creating an environment that facilitates diplomatic reconciliation.

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Issues & Insights Vol. 19, CR6: Weighing Future Paths for the Korean Peninsula

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In April 2019, Pacific Forum hosted the Northeast Asia Regional Young Leaders Security Symposium (NEARYLSS), a two-day dialogue in Tokyo, Japan, during which 25 young scholars and security analysts from China, Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK), and the United States explored regional security perspectives and opportunities for multilateral cooperation. Forming teams based on nationality, young scholars identified their country’s top regional threats in Northeast Asia and their desired, acceptable, and unacceptable outcomes for the Korean Peninsula.

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Issues & Insights Vol. 19, WP8 – China’s Digital Silk Road: Strategic Technological Competition and Exporting Political Illiberalism

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The Digital Silk Road is the component of China’s Belt and Road Initiative that aims to establish China as the global technological superpower. While the Belt and Road Initiative is generally understood to be a foreign policy initiative, it is important to view the Digital Silk Road as both a foreign and domestically focused aspect of the initiative. The first step to analyzing this component of the Belt and Road Initiative is to create a conceptual roadmap to understand the components of the Digital Silk Road. This paper argues that it comprises four interrelated, technologically focused initiatives. First, China is investing abroad in digital infrastructure, including next generation cellular networks, fiberoptic cables and data centers. Second, it contains a domestic focus on developing advanced technologies that will be essential to global economic and military power. These advanced technologies include satellite navigation systems, artificial intelligence and quantum computing. Third, because China recognizes the importance of economic interdependence to international influence, the Digital Silk Road promotes e-commerce through digital free trade zones. Last, digital diplomacy and governance, including through multilateral institutions, are key to China creating its ideal international digital environment.

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Issues & Insights Vol. 19, WP7 – The ASEAN Regional Forum at 25: Moving Forward or Still Standing?

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Executive Summary

The multinational ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) celebrates its golden anniversary this year. Since its inception in 1994, it has been instrumental in bringing together 27 countries and participants from Asia, Australasia, North America, and Europe – participants that have sometimes conflicting strategic and political interests – to collaborate on a common platform for dialogue and consultation. Generally speaking, its members have avoided direct conflict with one another despite overlapping territorial claims and other historic disputes. If it did not exist, attempts would be made to create it today, and these would likely prove difficult, if not impossible.

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