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Protesters shout as they hold umbrellas during a rally demanding peace on the Korean peninsula, Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 (AP photo by Lee Jin-man).

Are the U.S. and Its Allies on the Same Page on North Korea, Russia and Iran?

Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017

The current tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs have become a U.S.-North Korea bilateral story, as the two countries’ leaders spar in public. In addition, coordinating with the South Korean government is tricky when the political philosophies in Washington and Seoul diverge. Comparing this current crisis to regional stresses in Europe over Russia and in the Arab world over Iran shows how the immediate neighbors of an adversarial state often have different interests than Washington. And even when threat perceptions converge, policy preferences may not.

The current alignment of politics and policies in Washington and Seoul is not optimal for handling the worsening challenge of North Korea. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the liberal electorate that makes up his political base have long favored an approach to the North that leads with engagement, and keeps the military in the background. U.S. President Donald Trump appears to be trying deterrence by tweeting about U.S. military prowess, using increasingly aggressive language to outbully the bully in Pyongyang. It’s not making our allies in Seoul or Tokyo—or Guam for that matter—sleep well at night, despite the assurances of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other Cabinet secretaries. ...

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