Recent media coverage addresses the North Korea challenge as a ‘crisis,’ frames the situation as a ‘war of words’ between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, and espouses the ‘solution’ of pressuring China to pressure North Korea. In contrast, this presentation argues that North Korea presents more chronic than acute policy problems, a focus on personalities and rhetoric obscures more important national interests and asymmetries, and the road to Pyongyang does not lead through Beijing. Understanding the current situation requires debunking popular myths concerning sanctions, willingness for talks, and remaining ‘options on the table.’ Dealing effectively with North Korea does not call for a radically new approach, but rather dogged implementation of policy: enforcing sanctions, strengthening deterrence, seeking meaningful dialogue, and reinforcing alliances.
About the Speaker:
Leif-Eric EASLEY is Assistant Professor in the Division of International Studies at Ewha University and an International Research Fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, Korea. Professor Easley teaches international security and political economics. He specializes in U.S. security alliances, U.S.-ROK-Japan trilateral coordination on China and North Korea, and the geopolitical implications of domestic political reform (especially in the case of Myanmar). Dr. Easley was the Northeast Asian History Fellow at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC) at Stanford University. He completed his B.A. in political science with a minor in mathematics at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and received his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University’s Department of Government.
His recent publications include: “From Strategic Patience to Strategic Uncertainty: Trump, North Korea, and South Korea’s New President,” World Affairs, Vol. 180, No. 2 (Summer 2017); and “Time for ‘Implementation Diplomacy’ on North Korea,” The Strategist, August 2017; both of which inform today’s presentation.