- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

Conference and Bilateral Meetings in Korea

NBR’s Kenneth B. and Anne H.H. Pyle Center for Northeast Asian Studies held a conference and a series of bilateral meetings in South Korea in September 2007 to examine the future of the U.S.-ROK alliance. The conference applied an innovative analytical approach that produced new insights on this key strategic relationship.

On September 10–11, 2007, NBR and the Korea Institute for Future Strategies (KiFS) convened a binational team of experts from across the political spectrum in academia, business, and civil society in Seoul for a conference entitled "A World without the U.S. ROK Alliance: Implications of an ‘Alternative Future’." The team engaged in a rigorous scenario-building exercise based on a single question: "What would the world look like if the U.S.-ROK alliance did not exist?" Participants discussed the various dimensions of the current relationship and the ways in which a world without the bilateral alliance would differ from the status quo.

Leading the exercise was Dr. Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute (senior advisor to NBR), Dr. Aaron Friedberg of Princeton University (chairman of the Pyle Center Board of Counselors), and Dr. Lee Geun of Seoul National University (president of KiFS). Delegates to the conference presented papers on the full range of issues affected by the alliance. The delegates exchanged frank views and presented a diverse array of perspectives. They went beyond typical analyses by examining the consequences that would follow a hypothetical break in relations. As a result, the exercise provided insights into the relative costs and benefits and the bilateral drivers of the current alliance. The conference report summarizes the situation: "Washington and Seoul could dispense with the arrangements of the alliance quite easily, but not fundamental U.S. interests in Asia. It is difficult to conceive of a scenario in which the United States would wholly disavow its interests in the Korean Peninsula or would not be concerned with the possible contagion effects of a crisis in East Asia." In general, participants from across the political spectrum found that the alliance is critical to the future security and prosperity of Northeast Asia.

In addition to the conference, a U.S. business delegation led by NBR Chairman George Russell, William Oberlin (president of Boeing International Corporation, Korea, and chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea), and Spencer Kim (chairman of CBOL) met privately with South Korean business and government leaders. Meeting participants included representatives of major business associations, senior officials in the Korean National Assembly, and emerging South Korean political leaders.

Final Conference Report

A World without the U.S.-ROK Alliance: Thinking about "Alternative Futures"
Nicholas Eberstadt, Richard Ellings, Aaron Friedberg, Christopher Griffin, Roy Kamphausen, and Travis Tanner

Conference Papers

An Assessment of the ROK’s Defense and Security Requirements in Alternative Futures
Choi Kang and Park Joon-sung

Inter-Korean Relations in the Absence of a U.S.-ROK Alliance
David Kang

Inter-Korean Relations without the U.S.-ROK Alliance
Sheen Seongho

Alternative Future of ROK Relations with the Great Powers
Park Cheol-Hee

U.S.-ROK Civil Society Ties: Dynamics and Prospects in a Post-Alliance World
Scott Snyder

A Parable: The U.S.-South Korea Security Relationship Breaks Down
Enders Wimbush

Select papers from the conference were also published in NBR’s journal, Asia Policy.