Editor’s Note: On January 25-26, 2016, Jonathan Pollack gave the following presentation at the 4th Korea Research Institute for National Strategy-Brookings Joint Conference on “Policy Directions of the ROK and the U.S. for Regional Stability in East Asia” in Seoul, Korea.
Early 2016 is an uneasy and potentially disquieting time in East Asia and in international politics as a whole. A pronounced slowing of economic growth across much of the globe (the United States is among the few exceptions); appreciably heightened geopolitical rivalry in locations of great importance to major as well as middle powers; the increased prevalence of nativism and forms of anti-foreign nationalism in numerous industrial democracies; acute upheaval and internal conflict across the Middle East and Southwest Asia, with attendant consequences for nearby regions (most notably a severe refugee crisis in Europe); and North Korea’s fourth nuclear weapons test all suggest the erosion or outright breakdown of international order functioning since the end of the Cold War and the emergence of globalization as a major economic force. The U.S. presidential election is an additional and very troubling manifestation of global uncertainty: numerous candidates openly advocate policies that would represent an abdication of America’s global leadership role and a retreat into narrow nationalism.
These multiple, interacting developments highlight some of the emergent challenges to global governance in the 21st century amidst major disruption and uncertainty in the international order. The world’s leaders convene and interact frequently in various multilateral fora, and often arrive at broad agreement on pressing international issues. But translating these agreements into action – from climate change to the future international economic architecture to cyber security, maritime security, and nuclear non-proliferation- remains elusive.
The contributors to this conference will address various issues as analysts, not as policy makers, though the implications for policy are self-evident. But there is no single view in the United States or anywhere else: I will offer “an” American perspective, not “the” U.S. perspective. This paper will focus on East Asia, but similar questions apply in other regions of strategic significance. Will states be able to address collective problems with traditional tools of statecraft or design new approaches, in particular when there is no established “owner’s manual” to guide leaders and senior officials? Can the forces of disruption and disorder be controlled, and will states be able to work in concert to overcome such threats? Or will narrower visions of national self-interest dominate leadership calculations? How will states view their respective obligations and responsibilities? These are all first order considerations, and recent trends are not propitious.
Despite heightened concerns about potential instability in East Asia, the region seems far less troubled than other strategically significant locations. Though the region is far from tranquil, it is predominantly prosperous and characterized by increasing societal, technological and economic connectivity across national boundaries. (North Korea is an obvious and glaring exception.) No one is dying in interstate conflict, and there is no blood in the water, either literally or figuratively. But this apparent calm is superficial. There are increasing signs of longer-term strategic distrust and heightened political-military competition, and there is a continued absence of effective mechanisms to address potential risks to peace and security.
It is also far from certain that all states agree on the precise meaning of regional stability. Is it largely a slogan that all employ, without specifying (beyond the absence of armed conflict) how to define it? Why is there such widespread unease about the future, when objective conditions often seem favorable? Can we identify the underlying risks to regional order and the potential consequences if states prove incapable of managing these risks?
To address these issues, this paper will consider some of the major issues likely to confront East Asia in future years. Most of these concerns are not new, but they are increasingly shaped by heightened national identities and economic and demographic pressures within various societies (e.g. increased economic inequality, diminished job opportunities for younger citizens, and aging populations). Somewhat paradoxically, these factors coexist with expanded political and military capacities in states seeking to build upon a cumulative record of industrial growth and technological advancement.
Thus, even as development has advanced broadly across the region, the risks to well-being and international security have also increased. President Park Geun-hye has aptly described the “Asian paradox.” At a time of historically unprecedented levels of economic, social and cultural interaction across national borders, multilateralism (especially in Northeast Asia) remains highly uneven. Competing national agendas still dominate the contours of international politics, often heightening distrust and eroding the possibilities of policy consensus and collective action.
At the same time, historical issues that were seemingly settled long ago have reemerged. These have restimulated antagonisms between former adversaries, and intensified often rancorous debate within various states. Mass media and (even more) social media increasingly define public sentiments. Inherited political, economic and security structures often seem unable to manage power relationships, especially as the aspirations and capabilities of various national actors grow. These are worrisome developments, even in the absence of major crisis.
Stability as an organizing concept
Numerous observers perceive growing challenges to regional stability. But the concept of stability is often utilized far too uncritically in policy assessment, and should not be code language for sustaining the status quo. Stability seems most applicable in broad systemic terms—i.e., the absence of major war; avoidance of the excessive concentration of power in any one state; and the upholding of the political independence and territorial integrity of extant actors within the system. More broadly, stability presumes concurrence with agreed upon rules and norms within a distinct international system or subsystem, which presume restraint in the unilateral exercise of power.[i]
However, these criteria highlight two shortcomings in definitions of stability. First, the distribution of power in the international system is seldom static. Second, states often put forward highly divergent conceptions of order and national strategy, even if these do not necessarily result in armed conflict or overt challenges to the status quo. At the same time, established powers have an inherent interest in seeking to preserve their power advantage whenever possible, though some (including the United States) increasingly recognize the necessity to evolve new rules that will presumably enable less disruptive strategic transitions.
The international system has experienced at least three major transformations since the end of the 1980s without triggering acute systemic disruption or the resort to force: the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the global adversarial logic of the Cold War; the expansion of international trade and investment based on globalization and the telecommunications revolution; and the simultaneous emergence of the Asia-Pacific economies. China’s reemergence as a comprehensive major power constitutes a fourth such systemic change, to which we will return. In addition, the persistence of North Korea as an “outlier state” unreconciled to the extant rules of international order represents a growing threat to regional stability and security and to the non-proliferation regime.
Order and stability are clearly central to the thinking and policy calculations of nearly all states. (The North Korean case is a glaring exception to this overall pattern.) They are a principal means by which states, leaders, and policy bureaucracies articulate their aspirations and goals. The pursuit of power and interest thus remains a defining issue in international politics. But how are rules formed and institutionalized? Can newer entrants or states seeking heightened autonomy within the existing order articulate their interests without directly challenging existing norms or resorting to overt coercion? These issues are now at the center of strategy and policy debate across East Asia.
The defining characteristics of regional order first emerged in the aftermath of Japan’s defeat in World War II and were reinforced in the aftermath of the Korean War, both under U.S. leadership. But these norms and relationships are increasingly challenged by the renewal of major power rivalry, especially between the U.S. and China and between China and Japan. At the same time, many states have broader aspirations for increased autonomy and enhanced freedom of action.[ii] Though the ASEAN states devote ample attention to cooperative security and preventive diplomacy, these seldom touch upon hard security issues. The member states rarely demonstrate readiness to address security on anything that remotely resembles collective action.
At present, and for the indefinite future, the dynamics of regional security will continue to be defined principally by the states of Northeast Asia. Most regional military capabilities are concentrated in this area; it is also where the United States continues to deploy the preponderance of its regionally deployed military forces. Two of the world’s three largest economies are in Northeast Asia, and the United States (still the world’s dominant economic power) seeks to uphold and extend its economic, political, and security influence across this vital area.
The U.S. sees its alliances and emergent partnerships in Asia and the Pacific as integral to international security and to protecting American interests. These security ties enable the U.S. to continue to exert ample political influence in the region, even as established alliance bargains are undergoing ample change. It is through these relationships that the U.S. is able to extend its reach and influence well beyond the U.S. homeland. Without these alliance structures and other less institutionalized security partnerships, it would be impossible for the United States to sustain its political and security strategies. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, for example, characterized the United States as a “resident power” in Asia and the Pacific, justifying the U.S. security role over ample geographic distance. But can such involvement be sustained indefinitely, and on what basis? In the absence of a central U.S. leadership role, can existing power relationships remain unperturbed?
To weigh these issues, this paper will identify some of the potential fault lines that seem likely to shape the region in coming years. Our intent will not be delve into major detail on any particular issue, but to highlight major factors that could pose particularly acute challenges to power relations within the region and across the Pacific. I will focus on three questions: (1) the U.S.-China relationship; (2) the China-Japan relationship; and (3) North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and the North’s longer-term political, economic, and military prospects.
The U.S. and China
The U.S.-China relationship seems certain to be a defining feature in regional and global politics for many decades to come. Even as both leaderships insist that they seek mutually productive, non-adversarial relations, the gestational elements of a Sino-American strategic competition are clearly discernible. For the first time in its post-1949 history, China is amassing the economic wherewithal, political and diplomatic resources and military means to meaningfully affect American power and policy and to shape the choices of states across the region.[iii] There are several especially important questions in this context. How do China’s leaders envision the use of their increased power, and how will these beliefs shape the U.S. regional role and the perceptions and expectations of China’s neighbors?
These developments do not presume the inevitability of an adversarial competition, but the shift in the relative balance of power between the United States and China (and the acknowledgment of this shift by both countries) is indisputable. At the same time, the enhancement of China’s comprehensive national power has renewed questions about the durability of Beijing’s accommodation with the post war order built and sustained by the United States, even as the scope of governmental, institutional, economic and societal interactions between both countries has reached unprecedented levels.
China insists that it is not seeking to overturn the prevailing regional security order or displace American power. But its enhanced capabilities have enabled a much more extensive pattern of maritime and air activities in the East China Sea and the South China Sea that could be a portent of things yet to come. In addition, China has continued its efforts to construct artificial islands in the Nansha island group, including the building of airfields that provide the potential platforms to extend its power beyond the rocks, shoals, and maritime features it presently controls. The United States and various claimants in the South China Sea object strenuously to these unilateral measures, with senior U.S. officials asserting that Chinese activities have no standing or legitimacy in international law. But a “new normal” is developing in the waters and air space of the West Pacific, lending uncertainty about the longer-term implications for regional order.
Regardless of how analysts evaluate Chinese behavior and intentions, recent developments underscore two inescapable facts. China is increasingly forceful and active in asserting its maritime interests, and it is in the initial stages of an enhanced capacity for military operations beyond the Chinese mainland, thereby connecting the ends and means of Chinese policy. The enhancement of Chinese military power is an increasingly important element in imparting credibility to Beijing’s policy calculations and actions.[iv] Even if China’s increased military strength is viewed as a natural consequence of the revitalization of Chinese national power, the magnitude and pace of this military transition has unsettled numerous neighboring states.
Chinese policy makers contend that they are not intent on challenging the U.S. regional political-security role. Beijing has repeatedly endorsed an “appropriate role” for U.S. power in the region. But such statements lack specificity and operational content. They reveal little about how China conceptualizes the role of American military power in locations contiguous to China’s maritime periphery beyond wanting less of it, and perhaps none at all. There is an inescapable duality in Chinese thinking-i.e., a commitment to peaceful development while also protecting China’s “legitimate rights and interests” and a refusal “to sacrifice the state’s core interests.” This dichotomized conception of Chinese strategy is likely to be repeatedly tested in future years.
These issues also pertain to China’s increased efforts to articulate an alternative concept of regional order that plays to China’s economic strengths in the Asia-Pacific region. China’s economic and infrastructural integration across continental and maritime Asia have grown to a far greater extent than its military power. But Beijing also contends that there is natural complementarity between its economic outreach and the development of the military capabilities needed to protect its economic interests. China is already the lead trading partner of nearly all neighboring states, and it has an inherent interest in unimpeded movement of goods and energy resources across the continent’s maritime and land borders. The “One Belt, One Road” initiative and related steps (notably, its leadership of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) highlight enormous ambitions in the decades to come, even as many Chinese analysts voice doubts about the viability of some of the core concepts advocated by Chinese President Xi Jinping.[v]
The United States contends that it does not seek to exclude China from future international governance and rule making, but it argues that Beijing must adhere to an existing framework of rules, institutions, and norms developed under American leadership following the end of World War II. But the disparities between the respective visions of the United States and China remain very pronounced. The United States is intent on preserving its regional strategic advantage, combining its superior military power and its robust network of bilateral alliances with new rules governing trade and investment (i.e., the Trans-Pacific Partnership) which thus far do not involve China. But China is already the world’s lead trading state, raising questions about the viability of regional economic architecture that does not include Beijing.
The emergent fault lines in regional order are thus apparent. The U.S. seeks to preserve and augment what it already possesses, responding to the demand signal from numerous regional actors that do not want any dilution or attenuation of America’s regional role. By contrast, China appears intent on developing a distinct and appreciably larger voice in regional economic, diplomatic and security affairs. Though this competition is not overtly confrontational, it reveals asymmetries and divergence in Chinese and American practices that could portend intensified competition between the world’s two most powerful states. Is there sufficient strategic space for the U.S. and China to coexist without triggering overt rivalry, and what are the potential implications for 21st century security if the differences cannot be effectively bridged?
Such unresolved issues capture some of the principal uncertainties in the regional future, which neither Beijing nor Washington can ignore. Against a long history of mutual suspicion and strategic distrust, can both powers achieve a tolerable equilibrium in power relations and a mutual awareness and respect for each country’s vital interests? What are the consequences if they cannot? How do both countries reconcile the obvious need for heightened cooperation on a wide array of international issues with the more competitive dimensions of bilateral relations? The U.S. and China might not be on a collision course, but neither are they ships passing uneventfully in the night.
China and Japan
More than four decades after the normalization of Sino-Japanese relations, bilateral ties between China and Japan are increasingly fraught with tension and public animosity. There is now deep mutual wariness between the Chinese and Japanese leaderships and plummeting levels of public support for bilateral relations in both countries. These conditions create the possibility of longer-term estrangement between East Asia’s two major powers that would seriously undermine the prospects for a stable regional order, which would also entail pronounced implications for the ROK. There has been some modest improvement in recent months in working relations between Beijing and Tokyo, but it is closer to a truce than a major shift in policy direction. Although there is a partial recognition in both capitals of the risks of a deeper estrangement, neither leadership seems overly exercised by prevailing circumstances. If anything, both seem to feel that heightened security tensions advances the bureaucratic interests of security constituencies in both countries.
The immediate trigger for the Sino-Japanese estrangement was the 2012 decision of former Prime Minister Noda to initiate governmental purchase of the Senkakus/Diaoyus long held in private hands; China’s decision to appreciably increase its maritime and air activities near the islands in response to Japan’s decision; and the political exploitation of these developments in both countries.[vi] But these events emerged in the context of prior incidents and episodes, with leaders in both capitals far less prepared to devote appreciable energy or political capital to protecting bilateral relations. The return of Abe Shinzo to leadership in Japan and the accession of Xi Jinping to leadership in China exacerbated these growing differences.
However, the sources of increased estrangement run much deeper. Since the end of the Cold War, there has been an ongoing debate among Japanese leaders about the country’s political identity, centering on the question of its quest for “normal country” status.[vii] Sharp declines in support for the political left in Japan removed a principal impediment to advancement of this goal. But it has only been with the return to power of a deeply nationalistic Prime Minister that this objective has advanced in definitive ways.
Prime Minister Abe’s convictions about elevating Japan’s geopolitical status derive from multiple sources. Abe is determined to reinterpret and ultimately revise the post-war constitution drafted during the American occupation, including the “no war” clause that severely limited Tokyo’s involvement in international security beyond missions associated directly with the defense of Japan.[viii] He has sought to put the most positive gloss possible on these shifts in policy, emphasizing Japan’s efforts at economic revival and the parallel pursuit of what he terms “proactive pacifism.” Abe has also embedded these policy initiatives in the context of the U.S.-Japan alliance, asserting that constitutional reinterpretation (in conjunction with redrafted U.S.-Japan Defense Policy Guidelines) will enable Tokyo to buttress the alliance within a collective security framework. His reelection as president of the Liberal Democratic Party until 2018 affords him time and political opportunity to advance all these goals.
Abe’s behavior is animated primarily by his growing anxieties about Japan’s longer-term economic, political and security prospects in relation to a much more powerful China. By tethering Japanese strategy to that of the United States, he hopes to preclude any erosion in Japan’s position in U.S. regional strategy, and to ensure that the U.S. remains equally identified with Japanese security concerns. Japan’s decision not to seek founding member status in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank also put Tokyo and Washington on the same page, even as other close U.S. allies across Europe and in the ROK and Australia made a different decision.
For many years, leaders in Tokyo contended that Japanese security planning was directed principally against threats from North Korea rather than threats from China, a claim that Chinese analysts long insisted was a convenient rationale for building capabilities against Beijing.[ix] Regardless of the credibility of these competing arguments, there is no longer any ambiguity about the underlying rationales for Japan’s long-term military development: it is China-directed. Japan’s latest Defense White Paper makes these arguments explicit. Though North Korea’s fourth nuclear test reaffirms Tokyo’s strong opposition to Pyongyang’s actions and its decided preference for enhanced U.S.-Japan-ROK cooperation (including on ballistic missile defense), its eyes are increasingly cast on Beijing, seeking wherever possible to consolidate relationships across the region to counterbalance Chinese power.
It also seems increasingly apparent that the only U.S. alliance in the Asia-Pacific region that truly perturbs Chinese defense planners is a deeper and more expanded security relationship between the U.S. and Japan defined primarily by an anti-China rationale.[x] Though China routinely depicts U.S. bilateral alliances as artifacts of the Cold War and it routinely objects to most enhancements of the U.S. regional security role, these issues matter to China only insofar as they seek to constrain Chinese security objectives, especially along Beijing’s maritime and air periphery.
These circumstances highlight the competing assumptions underlying strategic thinking on the part of the Japan and the ROK. Though the U.S. deeply values both of these bilateral alliances, the predominant calculations of Park Geun-hye and Abe Shinzo are very different with respect to China. Even acknowledging Seoul’s dissatisfaction with Beijing’s equivocal responses to North Korea’s fourth nuclear test, President Park sees China as an ever more important economic and political partner, and (prospectively) the key to ultimate unification of the Korean peninsula. The ROK sees itself in a bridging role in relation to China, and it does not see its growing ties with Beijing as detrimental or undermining of alliance ties with the United States. Abe’s strategic calculation relative to China is very different, and tilted in much more adversarial directions.
These trends suggest that Korea and Japan are pursuing very different policy trajectories, with competing assumptions about China being fundamental to these differences. If sustained, this divergence in the strategies of America’s allies in Northeast Asia could place the regional security order and U.S. policy choices under increasing stress. The prospect of competing national security strategies in Korea and Japan is a prospect that no U.S. president wants to confront. Even as Seoul and Tokyo seemingly face parallel concerns about the regional future, commonality is by no means guaranteed. The recent agreement on comfort women possibly suggests a shared recognition by President Park and Prime Minister Abe of the risks that both countries could face if historical issues cannot be credibly resolved. But additional understandings are far from guaranteed, suggesting yet again that regional order must be constructed, not assumed.
North Korea and regional order
North Korea’s fourth nuclear test on January 6 reminds all analysts that it remains the preeminent threat to stability and order in Northeast Asia. It is a deeply insular and singularly dangerous regime, all under the control of an impulsive young leader with pretensions of grandeur and self-importance. Moreover, it is not clear who (if anyone) influences the thinking and actions of Kim Jong-un, though this appears to include some other members of the royal family. He inherited supreme power in abrupt fashion, without meaningful experiences to prepare him. He has repeatedly dismissed those below him, including senior officials and military commanders more than twice his age, with many either purged or in some instances executed, including his uncle Jang Song-thaek, who was purportedly designated by Kim Jong-il to guide and advise the untested young leader.
Expectations at the outset of Kim’s rule that he might undertake meaningful internal change have not been realized: North Korea persists as a monarchical totalitarian system. Though there is a growth of wealthy elite class in Pyongyang and (by North Korean standards) a building boom to reward those loyal to the regime, these are not indications of major movement away from the inherited system. The growth of a wealthy class has also spurred rampant corruption within the system. The best that can be said is the increasing tolerance for informal marketization by which some portion of the citizenry have managed to somewhat improve their economic well-being. The North’s economic dependence on China continues unabated, even as Kim has repeatedly defied Beijing’s preferences and failed to pay heed to Chinese interests. As a consequence, relations between China and North Korea are increasingly distant and strained, all the while as Beijing moves steadily closer to the ROK. However, even amidst Xi Jinping’s evident contempt for Kim Jong-un, Xi seems unwilling to sever ties, though there is growing evidence that he has sought to limit them.
Kim also shows every intention of sustaining the regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapon and missile capabilities that are integral to his power ambitions and claims to unchallenged power at home.[xi] It would be imprudent to dismiss North Korea’s grandiose claims to standing as a nuclear weapons state, even though the status of various weapons programs cannot be determined with certainty. No serious analyst believes that Pyongyang successfully conducted a thermonuclear test, even as regime propaganda repeatedly makes such claims.
Pyongyang thus remains the region’s unambiguous strategic outlier, seemingly incapable of pursuing a semblance of normalcy and predictability with any of its neighbors. To open its doors and to permit the fuller introduction of ideas, information, and technology from the outside world would put the regime at greatly increased risk. As a result, it descends further into economic irrelevance in one of globe’s most vibrant economic regions. North Korea has also announced that a Party congress will be held in May (the first such meeting in more than 35 years), when Kim will presumably appoint subordinate officials loyal to him who will oversee the North’s future development, assuming various appointees do not run afoul of young Kim. It is impossible to know how the system functions under such circumstances, but the internal stresses within North Korea (and quite possibly on Kim himself) must be very great indeed.
Yet somehow the regime persists despite acute economic dysfunction and the extreme centralization of power. Its ability to survive amidst economic privation and continued international isolation (Kim has yet to travel outside of North Korea since assuming top leadership) seems remarkable, but it may actually help explain the DPRK’s longevity. North Korea must keep the outside world at bay, even as it seeks to find ways to limit its dependence on China. The attention devoted to weapons programs appears to continue in largely unabated fashion. North Korea does not appear to be an “arrived” nuclear and missile power, even as it puts forward grandiose nuclear and missile aspirations. But that does not stop it from trying, and it might one day achieve its presumed objectives, though it is impossible to judge with any certainty what these goals might be.
What is to be done? The shared opposition of the U.S. and all neighboring states to the North’s weapon and missile programs is genuine, but insufficient to realize a truly coordinated approach. Without outright concurrence on a shared strategy that denies Pyongyang room for maneuver, there is little or no prospect for an overt cessation of its weapons development, short of the end of the regime or a seemingly unimaginable transition in leadership.
A credible cost imposition strategy must also await China’s willingness to participate fully in such activities. Will there be a time when the sheer scale of China’s relations with the ROK overwhelms whatever remains of Beijing’s residual links with the DPRK? Will Xi and other senior Chinese policy makers ultimately concede that the North’s adversarial nationalism poses such direct risks to Chinese vital interests that Beijing is prepared to collaborate openly with others (beginning with the ROK and the U.S.) to limit the risks to their collective interests? This day has yet to arrive. A more durable concept of regional order remains an unrealized but urgent task to ensure the well-being, security and stability of this strategically vital region.
[i]See, in particular, Hedley Bull’s classic study, The Anarchical Society-A Study of Order in World Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977).
[ii] For a thoughtful assessment by a leading Chinese scholar, see Liu Ming, “Northeast Asia Order after WWII: Continuity, Compliance, Power-Transition and Challenges,” The Korean Journal of Defense Analysis, Vol. 27, No. 2, June 2015, pp. 163-186.
[iii] For a discerning recent assessment, consult the essays in Jae Ho Chung, ed., Assessing China’s Power (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).
[iv] For the fullest official articulation of China’s emergent military strategies (with particular attention to the maritime domain), consult China’s Military Strategy (Beijing: Information Office of the State Council, May 26, 2015), www.china.org.cn.
[v] National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of Commerce, Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (Beijing: State Council of the PRC, March 2015).
[vi] For full accounts, see Jessica Chen Weiss, Powerful Patriots: Nationalist Protest in China’s Foreign Relations (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014); and Sheila A. Smith, Intimate Rivals- Japanese Domestic Politics and a Rising China (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015).
[vii] For an excellent overview, consult Yoshide Soeya, Masayuki Tadokoro and David A. Welch (eds.), Japan as a ‘Normal Country’?- A Nation in Search of Its Place in the World (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011).
[ix] For a careful assessment of shifting Japanese threat perceptions of North Korea in relation to a rising China, see Kim Doo-Seung, “A Hurdle beyond History: Japan’s Changing Perception of the DPRK Nuclear Threat and Its Impact on Korea-Japan Relations,” The Korean Journal of Defense Analysis, Vol. 27, No. 4, December 2015, pp. 469-487.
[x] See, in particular, Amy King, “Where Does Japan Fit in China’s ‘New Type of Great Power Relations?’”, The Asan Forum, March 20, 2014.
[xi] For a characteristic example of regime propaganda in the aftermath of the fourth nuclear test, see “Let Us Display the Great Dignity and Spirit of the Great Mt. Paektu State to the Whole World, With the Might of Single-Hearted Unity,” Rodong Sinmun Editorial, January 12, 2016.
[The resignation of assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs Wess Mitchell] is surprising news, which seems to have caught everyone off guard. He doesn’t appear to have shared this news with his ambassadors, who were in Washington last week for a global chiefs of mission conference. His deputy is also slated to retire soon, which raises question of near term leadership on European policy at a time of challenges there.
[Wess] Mitchell was a strong supporter of NATO, particularly in Eastern Europe where he will be sorely missed. His departure comes follows the resignation of senior Pentagon officials – Robert Karem and Tom Goffus – working on NATO along with Secretary Mattis. Without this pro-alliance caucus, NATO is now more vulnerable than at any time since the beginning of the Trump administration.