Between 2009 and 2010, major new developments in and around the Korean Peninsula profoundly affected the context of U.S.-South Korean relations. The global economy, led by Northeast Asia, began slowly to recover from the economic recession that followed the U.S. financial crisis. As China’s economy continued its dramatic development, East Asian countries strengthened the architecture of regional cooperation. The international community focused increasingly on multilateral problems such as climate change and environmental issues. The United States maintained its focus on terrorism and the Middle East and South Asia. President Obama initiated a global nonproliferation campaign, but little progress was made in curbing the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs.
The members of the New Beginnings policy study group on U.S.-Korean relations offer the following major recommendations to the Obama administration:
- Seek immediate Congressional approval of the KORUS FTA
- Bolster alliance security arrangements, and review the U.S.-Korean agreement on the transfer of wartime operational control
- Increase international pressure on North Korea to engage seriously in Six Party Talks on ending its nuclear weapons program, and strengthen international measures against North Korean proliferation
- Closely coordinate with the ROK a strong and effective bilateral and international response to the Cheonan sinking, depending on the findings of the investigation
- Highlight the human rights situation in North Korea; facilitate increased private exchanges with North Korea; and press China to take a humanitarian approach to North Korean refugees on its territory
- Identify additional opportunities for U.S.-South Korean global cooperation
- Increase support for the Work, English Study and Travel (WEST) student exchange program, and seek full Congressional funding for a new U.S. embassy chancery and residential facilities in Seoul.