Stanford University’s Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (Shorenstein APARC) and The Korea Society established the New Beginnings policy study group three years ago to enhance the United States’ important alliance with the Republic of Korea. Differences of approach toward North Korea had created significant tensions between the two governments in preceding years.
The New Beginnings group, comprised of former senior U.S. policy makers and experts on U.S.-Korean relations, believed that the inauguration of a new government in South Korea in early 2008 and the election of a new U.S. president later that year could lay the basis for a fresh start in the bilateral relationship. Both individually and collectively, members engaged intensively with American and South Korean policy makers, and together they have issued annual reports and recommendations to the U.S. administration regarding bilateral developments and ways to strengthen the alliance.
Members of the group believe that U.S.-South Korean official and people-to-people relations today are broader, deeper, and stronger than ever due to the leadership of the two governments. They welcome the prospect that the U.S. Congress may approve the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement on the eve of President Lee Myung-bak’s upcoming state visit to the United States. Implementation of the agreement will significantly expand economic ties between the two countries, increase jobs, and reinforce strategic ties.
New Beginnings members remain concerned that North Korea may engage in further military and nuclear provocations, and they support continued close U.S.-South Korean coordination on diplomatic and military means to deter North Korea and to limit and eventually end its nuclear programs. Members also support continued implementation of existing plans to rationalize and realign United States Forces Korea (USFK), allow USFK personnel to be accompanied to Korea by their family members, and transfer wartime operational control over South Korean forces to South Korean authorities in 2015. With presidential elections scheduled in both the United States and South Korea in late 2012, members believe that the United States should focus on implementing existing policies rather than undertake major new initiatives regarding the alliance or North Korea policy.
Key recommendations of the 2011 annual report:
The members of the New Beginnings policy study group on U.S.-Korean relations offer the following major recommendations to the Obama administration:
• Increase cooperation with South Korea to correct weaknesses in deterrence; engage in further joint planning on responses to North Korean provocations
• Support the strengthening of South Korea’s response to North Korean missile programs, consistent with the credibility of the Missile Technology Control Regime
• Use the Extended Deterrence Policy Committee to underline to the South Korean government the effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear umbrella
• Continue implementation of existing plans to realign USFK, allow accompanied tours, and transfer wartime operational control over South Korean forces to South Korean authority as scheduled in 2015
• Continue efforts, in close coordination with South Korea, to engage North Korea diplomatically to limit, reduce, and end North Korea’s nuclear programs
• Provide any U.S. food aid to North Korea on a humanitarian basis, depending on needs there, competing needs elsewhere, and acceptable monitoring arrangements
• Seek to resume the search in North Korea for the remains of Americans missing-in action from the Korean War
• Encourage early South Korean legislative approval of the Free Trade Agreement.
The full-text of the 2011 report and all previous recommendations are available for download on the Shorenstein APARC website.