The Strategic US-Japan-Korea Triangle: Emerging Perils and Prospects for Cooperation

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In-depth Japan and South Korea: Doomed to Mutual Distrust?
The Strategic US-Japan-Korea Triangle: Emerging Perils and Prospects for Cooperation
Kent Calder [Profile]

[2013.12.24] Read in: 日本語 | FRANÇAIS | ESPAÑOL |

Developments over the past two decades have made the challenge of trilateral cooperation more difficult for the United States and its two Northeast Asian partners, Japan and South Korea. Washington should promote major initiatives to improve the three-way relationships.

Two Key Alliances

Northeast Asia at once ranks among the most dynamic and the most dangerous corners of the world. Its key economies—Japan, China, and the Republic of Korea—have, in the aggregate, increased their collective gross domestic product more than 130-fold over the past half century, and have more than doubled it even over the past decade. The respective militaries of the region have more than 3 million active-duty personnel under arms, not counting substantial forward-deployed US forces, and reserve forces of over 11 million. The region is home to three nuclear powers apart from the United States (Russia, China, and North Korea) and two other potential nuclear powers (Japan and South Korea). And the power-projection capabilities of the key nations, including missile forces, are growing rapidly more sophisticated as well.

Within the Northeast Asian region, the United States has, since the early 1950s, maintained important bilateral alliance relationships with both Japan and South Korea, formalized by major mutual security treaties. The functional roles of the two long-time allies of the United States within the overall national-security structure of the Pacific have been somewhat different historically: South Korea has been involved in front-line confrontation with North Korea across the armistice line near the thirty-eighth parallel, which has never been stabilized by a formal peace treaty. The deterrent role of US ground and air forces south of the demilitarized zone has been crucial to sustaining the peace against a North Korean regime that has remained remarkably assertive, as evidenced by the sinking of the South Korean naval corvette Cheonan (a South Korean naval warship) and the shelling of South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island in recent years, despite its declining economic capabilities.

 

Read more: http://www.nippon.com/en/in-depth/a02702/

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