The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation today released a report offering a new approach to the difficult problems presented by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Rejecting the notion that there are no good policy options for dealing with North Korea, the task force sets out a modest but meaningful policy agenda that includes steps Tokyo and Washington can take to improve coordination with Seoul and to signal their willingness to act to advance their core interests on the Korean Peninsula.
The report summarizes the findings of a February workshop that tasked nine young scholars specializing in Japanese and Korean studies with taking a fresh look at challenges on the Korean Peninsula. Task force members were asked to start fresh, putting aside all previous efforts to resolve these challenges. In a series of discussions over two days they: tested assumptions underlying the current approach to North Korea; generated critical observations; and proposed modest policy proposals to advance the core interests of the major players on the Korean Peninsula. Their findings are summarized in “Reexamining North Korea Policy: A Blue-Sky Approach.”
The scholars began the February 3-5 workshop by examining North Korea to establish a common understanding of the country. Guided by senior advisors Alexander Ilitchev (Senior Fellow, Mansfield Foundation), Keith Luse (Executive Director, The National Committee on North Korea), and Seoul-based scholar Andrei Lankov, they then worked to identify core interests, priorities, goals, and policy tools from the perspective of the Japan-U.S. alliance. The group paid special attention to how the U.S.-Japan alliance could better and more deeply engage the Republic of Korea to achieve common goals for the Korean Peninsula. Among their key findings and recommendations were:
- Core interests and priorities. While Tokyo, Washington, and Seoul share many core interests with regard to the Korean Peninsula, there are important differences in how these interests are prioritized and defined. Moreover, China’s interests are noticeably out of alignment with those of the United States and its allies.
- Realistic policy goals. The task force generated a number of achievable policy goals — high-impact, low-cost, and currently under-valued initiatives that should be a part of any comprehensive DPRK policy. The top goal — improving the quality of information about the DPRK — is essential to ensuring the success of that policy.
- Innovative policy tools. The task force suggested innovative approaches — both near-term and mid-term — to put pressure on North Korea and create a more favorable negotiating environment. Near-term steps include actions to establish an official dialogue with the DPRK and enhance allied policy coordination, while mid-term steps are intended to accomplish intermediate goals consistent with the ultimate objectives of peace, denuclearization, and unification.
The Mansfield Foundation is grateful to Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its generous support of this project, the Japan-US Task Force on a New Approach to DPRK: Forging a Collaborative Japan-US-ROK Policy Framework.