Posts   |   Carla Freeman on Xi and US Policy toward North Korea

February 12, 2016
Carla Freeman on Xi and US Policy toward North Korea

My colleague and the Director of the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins SAIS Carla Freeman has published two excellent articles over the past few weeks, one on Xi Jinping’s travails in regional policy, and the other on U.S policy toward North Korea after its latest provocation. Let me address the February 10 North Korea article first. The piece is full of insights, but also written with great style. She refers to US policy as weighed down by “frustration with past failures and fantasies born of misplaced hope.”

She writes:

“Frustration and exhaustion are the yield of years of fruitless negotiations with Pyongyang after the Bush Administration’s retrospectively disastrous trashing of Clinton’s efforts referred to by John Delury. Misplaced hope relates to this frustration and exhaustion and is reflected in the decision to let North Korea—China’s ally and territorial neighbor, after all—be China’s problem: the policy characterized as “strategic patience” of the Obama Administration. The assumption is that the Sino-North Korean Mutual Aid and Cooperation Friendship Treaty mirrors U.S.-style alliance relationships. Misplaced hope weaves our secret dream that the North Korean state will collapse amid cries for democracy or that somehow “the real” western-educated Kim Jong-un will emerge and lead his country down a path of reform and opening despite the brutal evidence to the contrary.”

It’s a sobering wake-up call to US policy-makers to more actively engage on North Korea in a bilateral fashion, rather than simply handing over the North Korea problem to China.

Read the full piece on Asia Society’s China File page. (Scroll to the bottom)

And while I’m at it, let me also alert you to Carla’s piece from January 25 entitled “Xi’s January of Discontents.”

The piece outlines “several developments in China’s backyard” that “reflect disappointing returns on a number of policy investments that Xi made to secure conditions favorable to China in the region.” It ranges from Vietnam to Korea to Taiwan, outlining the many challenges Chinese President Xi Jinping faces. Again, full of insights and written with clarity and style.

See “Xi’s January of Discontents.”