Chapter 11: America’s alliance with South Korea: the consistency of variability
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Despite major changes in the security environment in Northeast Asia, including North Korea’s emergence as a nuclear-armed power, the US–Republic of Korea (ROK) alliance has been characterised by several consistent themes since its inception. The most prominent of these has been a tension between entrapment and abandonment fears, and a misalignment between close military-operational ties and uneven political strategic relations. While the alliance has experienced a significant ‘thickening’ of its institutional fabric, it nevertheless remains susceptible to strains regarding the inter-Korean focus of governments in Seoul and the aversion among US policymakers to any accommodation of Pyongyang. Looking ahead, these dynamics will continue to shape the US–ROK alliance as it confronts a new, and increasingly unpredictable, era of strategic uncertainty on the Korean peninsula.

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