Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts The Sino-ROK-U.S. Triangle: Awaiting the Impact of Leadership Changes

The Sino-ROK-U.S. Triangle: Awaiting the Impact of Leadership Changes

Joint U.S.-Korea Academic Studies

Of five alternative approaches to addressing the North Korean threat to stability in East Asia and beyond, this section is concerned with the possibility of just one—a diplomatic approach via Three-Way Talks among China, South Korea, and the United States. We single out this approach as the golden mean for reconciling the conflicting interests among parties best positioned to reshape the calculus of Pyongyang. It represents the path to compromise. Among the alternatives, there is the Chinese appeal for a dual-track approach through Six-Party Talks, aimed at a peace treaty on terms attractive to North Korea and greatly transformative to the security architecture in Northeast Asia. This could hardly be called a compromise, since Seoul and Washington regard this as a win for Pyongyang and evidence that Beijing actually has been siding with Pyongyang. Another alternative is Strategic Patience, which is a misnomer for the policy of the Obama administration, but, in any case, refers mainly to reliance on increased deterrence as pressure is ratcheted up. In fact, Obama was seeking a pathway to three-way talks, giving China time to shift in that direction bolstered by new sanctions, while in 2016 also moving closer to a fourth approach: Unilateral Sanctions targeted at the Chinese firms assisting North Korea. A fifth option is Alliance Triangularity to force change in Pyongyang.

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