The Rise of U.S.-China Rivalry and Its Implications for the Korean Peninsula

  • Scott Snyder


It has been conventional wisdom that good relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) are a necessary condition for reconciliation on the Korean peninsula. The fact that the United States and the PRC share the objective of maintaining stability in Korea has also been used in recent years as a rhetorical justification for strategic US.-PRC cooperation. But the Korean peninsula may also become an object of strategic competition in the future, particularly if the U.S.-PRC relationship itself becomes primarily a competitive one. Indeed, most analysts believe that shared U.S.-PRC short-term objectives of maintaining stability on the Korean peninsula will inevitably diverge at the moment of Korean reunification, bringing American and Chinese strategic interests into direct conflict with each other and once again inducing a historically familiar pattern of great power competition over Korea. After exploring recent trends in China’s relationship with the two Koreas and the role Korea has played as part of the U.S.-China relationship in recent years, this chapter will explore the extent to which a downturn in the U.S.-PRC relationship may become a source of future instability in Korea, the extent to which it is possible to isolate or distance security questions on the Korean peninsula from the broader regional security environment, and the possible sources and implications of U.S.-PRC tensions and their likely impact on the situation in Korea.


World Trade Organization Korean Peninsula Most Favored Nation Strategic Interest Alliance Relationship 
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© Kyung-Ae Park and Dalchoong Kim 2001

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  • Scott Snyder

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