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General Brooks and Prof. Greitens Discuss America’s Relationship with the Korean Peninsula

Nov 23, 2020 |

In a recent episode of Horns of a Dilemma titled “It’s Not Just Over There: The American Commitment to the Korean Peninsula,” General Vincent Brooks, Strauss Center Distinguished Senior Fellow, and Sheena Chestnut Greitens, Associate Professor at the LBJ School and Strauss Center Distinguished Scholar, discussed a broad range of topics related to the U.S.’s relationship with the Korean peninsula. General Brooks began by providing comments on what he expects from North Korea in the coming months, noting the several challenges, including sanctions, flooding, typhoons, and COVID-19, which are pushing the DPRK into deeper isolationism. Professor Greitens echoed this description of a North Korean “holding pattern,” noting that the elections in the U.S. and South Korea continue to affect its political calculus. Greitens further noted that the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit the DPRK particularly hard, has likely enhanced the efficacy of nuclear sanctions.

General Brooks then discussed the phrase which is commonly floated during times of escalated tensions on the Korean peninsula: “All options are on the table.” Brooks noted that the this is an instrument of national power which is naturally always at our disposal, but that it is not effective in the absence of other policy tools. He continued to explain that military capability “when applied creatively and with some dexterity can create inflection points” which build traction for diplomacy or economic endeavors. Greitens agreed, noting that it is important to match the nuclear threat presented by the DPRK with a credible military deterrent, but that we also must be thoughtful and creative in the use of these military signals. Greitens and Brooks then discussed why Americans should care about what happens on the Korean peninsula. Professor Greitens began by highlighting the array and cultural and economic ties between the U.S. and the Republic of Korea and then discussed the strategic value of the partnership. General Brooks then provided some important details on the U.S.’s military presence on the Korean peninsula, and both Brooks and Greitens underscored the major contributions made by the South Korean government to support and fund joint U.S.-ROK military efforts.

They then fielded several audience questions, including on the possibility of foreign adversaries viewing the U.S. presidential transition period as an opportunity for mischief. Listen to the full conversation here.

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