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A Fragile Relationship: The United States and the Republic Of Korea

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As South Korea became economically and militarily stronger and developed democratic institutions, the country was in a position to assume more responsibilities in its partnership with the United States. The necessary changes could be achieved only with difficulties. The efforts of the US administration to stop the nuclear proliferation by North Korea and South Korea's attempts to develop a policy of engagement towards the DPRK resulted in friction between the allies. The dissonance was amplified by efforts of the Rho Moo Hyun government to pursue a foreign policy that was less dependent upon the United States. The change of atmosphere was underlined by anti-American outbursts in South Korea. A new effort to strengthen the partnership is, however, reasonable. For South Korea the United States is still the indispensable ally as long as an attack by North Korea that probably has nuclear weapons cannot be ruled out. For the United States this alliance contributes to maintain America's paramount influence in East Asia. If both countries agree with this rationale they should take steps to accept basic assumptions and policies of the other side. To find a common position towards the nuclear efforts of North Korea is crucial. Even if both sides try to harmonize their policies, success is not guaranteed. Korean nationalism and American dynamics combined with occasional high-handedness are difficult obstacles.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-06-01

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