Key Points

To be successful, maximum pressure 2.0 should include diplomatic, military, cyber, economic and financial sanctions, and information and influence activities. There will undoubtedly be challenges associated with implementation. And no plan fully survives contact with the adversary. But this campaign offers the best hope of securing American, South Korean, and international interests on the Korean Peninsula without war.

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For example, the United States could consider punitive fines or sanctions against Chinese banks, companies, and individuals complicit in direct and unwarranted boycotts on South Korean firms and industries. As regional opponents such as North Korea and China continue to undermine Alliance interests, it is imperative that Washington and its allies remain united to deter common adversaries.

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The new U.S. demands on South Korea are a radical departure from past practice. The United States must answer critical questions about the importance of its interests in Northeast Asia and whether it would withdraw forces from the Korean Peninsula if its funding demands were not met. The answers to these questions will determine the relationship with all current and future allies. Is maximum funding of U.S. forces by the host nation the most important criteria for participating in an alliance? Or are the mutual interests of the alliance and the strategic interests of the United States the primary consideration? If it is determined that the United States is shifting to a transactional alliance system, we should expect a collapse of the U.S. alliance structure and the rise of conflict in multiple regions around the world. This round of SMA negotiations and the ones that will follow are thus of paramount importance to U.S. national security and the United States’ relations with its allies.

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Treasury also should sanction the financiers of cyber operations, as sanctioning only the hackers themselves has been insufficient to deter their misbehavior. Reports indicate, for example, that another sanctioned Iranian cyber threat group, known as Cobalt Dickens, continues to operate unimpeded. Treasury’s existing anti-terrorism and non-proliferation sanctions are potent because they target not only the aggressors but also their financial networks. For U.S. sanctions to be an effective tool to combat and thwart cyber operations, this expansiveness must be replicated in the cyber realm.

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Overall, resolving South Korea and Japan’s historic tensions will take time and require bold leadership from Seoul and Tokyo. However, Pyongyang’s drive to perfect its ballistic missiles should remind America’s two Asian allies that deepening security cooperation will enhance readiness and bolster deterrence against a common threat.

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Events

EVENT: Instruments of American Power: Implementing Foreign Policies and Protecting Against Global Threats

October 10, 2019 | 12:00

Projects