The North Korea Challenge and East Asia’s Security Architecture


On August 28, the Center for the National Interest hosted a one-day workshop on The North Korea Challenge and East Asia’s Security Architecture, which convened distinguished experts from the United States and South Korea. The first two panels were off the record. The initial panel examined prospects for ongoing diplomatic engagement between the United States and North Korea. The second panel assessed the question of whether China is a partner for peace or a spoiler on the Korean Peninsula. The second-half of the workshop was on-the-record. The third discussion considered the future prospects of the US-ROK alliance. The final panel tackled the question of what the end game on the Korean Peninsula might look like.

9:00am – 10:30am Panel #1 (Off the record) – Trump-Kim Diplomacy: Path to Peace or Same Old Road?

What have we learned about areas of agreement and disagreement between the U.S. and North Korea? What are the prospects for diplomacy that could lead to a breakthrough? For example: Will North Korea accept a defined path towards denuclearization or seek to limit such a goal to be merely aspirational, only after Washington and Seoul make major concessions first?

Moderator: Harry J. Kazianis, Director of Defense Studies, Center for the National Interest and Executive Editor, The National Interest.

Panelist:  Jihwan Hwang, Professor, University of Seoul.

Panelist: Daniel Davis, Senior Fellow, Defense Priorities.

Panelist:  Rebeccha Heinrichs, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute.

10:45am – 12:15 pm Panel #2 (Off the record) – The China Question: A Partner for Peace or Spoiler?

As relations between China and North Korea thaw, will Beijing act as an honest broker, working with Washington and Seoul to create the conditions for a diplomatic breakthrough? Or, would Beijing, worried that it could eventually lose North Korea as a buffer state between South Korea and U.S. military forces, encourage Pyongyang to take a tougher position, as some have accused China of doing after its second summit with Kim? 

Moderator: Patrick Cronin, Senior Director, Center for a New American Security.

Panelist: Gordon Chang, Author of the Coming Collapse of China.

Panelist:  Scott Snyder, Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations.

1:00pm – 2:30-pm Panel #3 (On-the-record, link to the video here) – A Recalibrated U.S.-ROK Alliance?:

How does potential U.S.-North Korea dialogue—or the possible ending of dialogue—impact alliance dynamics? What should be the proper force structure, command and control systems as well as coordination to ensure the alliance is built to tackle future threats but also positioned to take advantage of a potential of a diplomatic breakthrough? Do newer defense technologies, such as the THAAD missile defense system, help or hinder the alliance?

Moderator: Lt. Gen Chip Gregson (USMC, Ret.) Senior Director, Center for the National Interest. Former Assistant Secretary of Defense (Obama Administration).

Panelist:  Dr. Sung Yoon-Lee, Professor in Korean Studies, Tufts University, Fletcher School.

Panelist: Bruce Klingner, Senior Research Fellow, Heritage Foundation.

Panelist: Doug Bandow, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute. Former Special Assistant to President Reagan.

2:45pm – 4:15pm Panel #4 (On-the-record, link to the video here) – What Is the End Game?

No matter what happens in the short-to-medium term on the Korean Peninsula, it seems North Korea will be a shared threat as well as an opportunity for the U.S.-ROK Alliance. What are the chances of North Korea truly giving up all of its nuclear weapons? If not, can the Trump Administration live with—while containing and deterring—a nuclear DPRK? Is there a possibility that the maximum pressure campaign, if increased, could lead to the destabilizing of North Korea? Is unification possible at some point in the future?

Moderator: Harry J. Kazianis, Director of Defense Studies, Center for the National Interest and Executive Editor, The National Interest.

Panelist:  Doug MacGregor, Author of Margin of Victory.

Panelist: Joe Cirincione, President, Ploughshares Group.

Panelist: Sue Mi Terry, Senior Fellow and Korea Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies.