President Jimmy Carter’s foreign policies toward Korea were targets of wide criticism from his contemporaries in the late 1970s, and they remain contentious among historians today. The root of Carter’s dismal record regarding this East Asian nation was not simply his misplaced focus on troop withdrawals and human rights, but rather the U.S. president’s failure to change measurably or positively the status quo on the Korean Peninsula. Utilizing sources from the United States and, to a lesser extent, Romania, the former Yugoslavia, and People’s Republic of China, this article explores an often ignored element of Carter’s policy toward the two Koreas—dialogue—to illuminate this point. It also explores U.S.-China diplomacy on the dialogue initiative, demonstrating the limits of relying on Beijing to coax P’yŏngyang into returning to the negotiating table.
This article examines the reasons why the level of alliance cohesion between the United States and the Republic of Korea (rok) was suboptimal during the Second North Korean Nuclear Crisis (2002–2006). Existing studies on this phenomenon primarily attribute its causes to factors like the rise of anti-Americanism in the rok and/or the increasing divergence in the two nations’ respective threat perceptions of the North Korea and their resulting policy preferences. However, these explanations are partial at best. The main finding here is that one should understand the frictions in the U.S.-rok alliance in terms of the rok’s status concerns. In particular, the rok, with a sense of entitlement to its solid middle power status, had set out to cooperate closely with the United States in seeking to answer the nuclear problem, based on the spirit of horizontal, equitable alliance relations. However, the United States failed overall to reciprocate, thereby leading the rok to boldly pursue its own set of policies at the expense of eroding alliance cohesion. These events demonstrate that (dis)respect for status concerns in international politics can make a major contribution towards facilitating (or impeding) interstate cooperation.
U.S. relations with South Korea had a rocky start during U.S. occupation when American planners rated the peninsula low on the list of U.S. strategic priorities. The psychology of the relationship improved in 1948, when the United States helped create the Republic of Korea (rok), and even more after June 1950, when U.S. military intervention prevented North Korea from conquering South Korea. With the July 1953 armistice in the Korean War, the United States reluctantly agreed to a bilateral alliance that eventually became the centerpiece of American defense strategy there. With concerns ongoing about Chinese expansion and Japanese reliability, staunchly anti-Communist South Korea became the most reliable U.S. strategic partner in East Asia. When Pak Chŏnghŭi emerged as a strong leader in the mid-1960s, the United States came to see the rok as a valuable strategic asset in countering Asian communism. With South Korea’s settlement with Japan and commitment of combat forces to Vietnam in 1965 and U.S. acceptance of a Status-of-Forces Agreement with the rok a year later, the bilateral alliance relationship reached a peak after two decades of challenges.
This article examines the u.s. Congressional debates in 1981 and 1982 over the Amerasian Immigration Act (aia), which provided preferential immigration status for the Amerasians of Southeast Asia. The debates exposed conflict on issues of American identity, race, and nation and the gendered nature of u.s. immigration and citizenship policy. This article considers how lawmakers on both sides of the debate justified accepting the Amerasians as American children or rejecting them as Asian. In each case, lawmakers in the post-Vietnam War era struggled to reconcile the physical appearance of the Amerasians and their racial hybridity with an American national identity. The aia is evidence of the confusion. While the bill defined Amerasians as children of American citizens, it failed to grant them American citizenship. This article argues that although the rhetoric of inclusion and kinship within the aia recognized the Amerasians as children of American fathers, the exclusion of citizenship from the bill formalized their status as the children of “others,” and thus foreign children. Ultimately, the bill exposed the problematic existence of mixed-race populations in the United States, and a history of exclusionary immigration and citizenship policies against people of Asian descent.