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  • P-ISSN0023-3900
  • E-ISSN2733-9343

North Korea between China, Japan and the ROK, 2012–2016

Korea Journal, (P)0023-3900; (E)2733-9343
2018, v.58 no.3, pp.156-183
https://doi.org/10.25024/kj.2018.58.3.156

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Abstract

By using Lowell Dittmer’s game-theoretical analysis as a method, this article examines how North Korea’s room to maneuver has been affected by Chinese-South Korean, Japan-ROK, and Sino-Japanese interactions, and how the DPRK sought to exploit the various conflicts between Beijing, Tokyo, and Seoul. Placing the period of 2012–2016 into historical context, it emphasizes that North Korea has consistently tried to hinder cooperation between South Korea and the other two Northeast Asian states by creating “romantic triangles.” North Korean propaganda frequently highlighted local territorial disputes, Japanese historical revisionism, and the deployment of US missile defense batteries in South Korea, but it could also abruptly remove these issues from its agenda if Pyongyang’s foreign policy underwent a shift. Still, the DPRK was not necessarily able to benefit from these disagreements, because a Japan-ROK conflict could reinforce China-ROK cooperation (or vice versa). In periods of inter-Korean confrontation, Pyongyang had less chance to take advantage of Sino-Japanese and Japan-ROK friction than in periods of North-South rapprochement. If China or Japan decided to confront Seoul, they could easily have found alternative partners that were more powerful and attractive than the DPRK (like Russia or the United States), which limited their readiness to engage a confrontational North Korea.

keywords
North Korean foreign policy Chinese-ROK relations Japanese-ROK relations Sino-Japanese relations trilateral cooperation inter-Korean relations trilateral cooperation inter-Korean relations

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