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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Trade Promotion Authority and the Korea Free Trade Agreement


Emily C. Barbour
Legislative Attorney

On June 30, 2007, U.S. and South Korean officials signed the Korea Free Trade Agreement (Korea FTA or KORUS FTA) for their respective countries. It is one of three free trade agreements currently awaiting submission to Congress for approval and implementing legislation. In June 2010, the Obama Administration announced plans to seek Congress’ approval for the Korea FTA after first engaging in talks with South Korea over U.S. concerns with the agreement as signed, particularly over its provisions involving market access for U.S. autos. These talks were concluded on December 3, 2010 with a text that has been referred to as a “supplemental agreement” or “supplementary deal” to the 2007 Korea FTA.

The Executive, in consultation with Congress, is expected to draft legislation approving and implementing the Korea FTA and submit the resulting “implementing bill” to Congress during the first session of the 112
th Congress. This legislation will be entitled to consideration in Congress under expedited (“fast track”) legislative procedures if it satisfies the requirements of the Bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority Act of 2002 (Trade Act of 2002). In particular, the implementing bill must: (1) approve the agreement “entered into” in 2007; and (2) include provisions enacting, amending, or repealing existing U.S. laws only to the extent that the provisions are “necessary or appropriate” for the implementation of the agreement “entered into” in 2007. Each chamber of Congress, acting independently of the other, has the authority to determine for itself whether the Korea FTA implementing bill conforms with these requirements. In each chamber where the bill is found to satisfy the terms of the Trade Act of 2002, the bill will be entitled to receive an up-or-down vote without amendment and with limited debate.

It is difficult to predict with certainty how the 2010 changes and the late date at which they were concluded might affect Congress’s decision to consider the Korea FTA implementing bill under the fast track procedures. However, the effect of side agreements on the fast track eligibility of the implementing legislation for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) may be instructive. In that case, the Executive concluded supplemental agreements to the trade agreement after the agreement was signed and trade promotion authority had expired. These agreements were treated as executive agreements, circumventing the need for their express approval by Congress, but the implementing bill nevertheless authorized U.S. participation in the two agreements. Arguably, the NAFTA supplemental agreements may be characterized as having received congressional approval.

Although members expressed concern about the use of the fast track procedures to consider the NAFTA implementing bill, no member formally challenged the bill’s eligibility for fast track consideration. To challenge the use of the fast track procedures to consider the Korea FTA implementing bill, a member must raise an objection. The bill’s eligibility for fast track consideration will then be resolved by the chamber in which the objection was raised. Either chamber may also decide, as an exercise of its rulemaking power, to waive, suspend, or repeal its grant of fast track authority.

If the Korea FTA implementing bill is deemed ineligible for—or otherwise denied—fast track consideration, the bill, in its entirety, may be considered under the regular procedures of each chamber. Under these procedures, the bill, like other pieces of legislation, might not be brought up for a vote or might be passed with amendments. The Jordan Free Trade Agreement was statutorily implemented under regular procedures.



Date of Report: December 22, 2010
Number of Pages: 15
Order Number: R41544
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

U.S.-South Korea Relations


Mark E. Manyin, Coordinator
Specialist in Asian Affairs

Emma Chanlett-Avery
Specialist in Asian Affairs

Mary Beth Nikitin
Analyst in Nonproliferation

Mi Ae Taylor
Research Associate in Asian Affairs


Since late 2008, relations between the United States and South Korea (known officially as the Republic of Korea, or ROK) have been arguably at their best state in decades. By the middle of 2010, in the view of many in the Obama Administration, South Korea had emerged as the United States’ closest ally in East Asia.

Of all the issues on the bilateral agenda, Congress has the most direct role to play in the proposed Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA). Congressional approval is necessary for the agreement to go into effect. In early December 2010, the two sides announced they had agreed on modifications to the original agreement, which was signed in 2007. South Korea accepted a range of U.S. demands designed to help the U.S. auto industry and received some concessions in return. In the United States, the supplementary deal appears to have changed the minds of many groups and members of Congress who previously had opposed the FTA, which is now expected to be presented to the 112
th Congress in 2011. If Congress approves the agreement, it would be the United States’ second largest FTA, after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

U.S.-South Korean coordination over policy towards North Korea has been particularly close. The Obama and Lee Administrations have adopted a medium-to-longer-term policy of “strategic patience” that involves three main elements: refusing to return to the Six-Party Talks without an assurance from North Korea that it would take “irreversible steps” to denuclearize; gradually attempting to alter China’s strategic assessment of North Korea; and using Pyongyang’s provocations as opportunities to tighten sanctions against North Korean entities.

Additionally, the Obama Administration has said that an improvement in inter-Korean relations is a prerequisite for the United States to enter into meaningful negotiations with North Korea. Lee, in turn, has linked progress in many areas of North-South relations to progress in denuclearizing North Korea. South Korea halted almost all remaining inter-Korean projects after the March 2010 sinking of the South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan, an event the United States and South Korea have blamed on North Korea. Tensions with North Korea were further heightened by Pyongyang’s late November 2010 shelling of a South Korean island, killing two South Korean soldiers and two civilians. The events further eroded the loose consensus that had prevailed in South Korea against openly discussing and planning for reunification in the short- or mediumterm. While few South Koreans advocate actively trying to topple the Kim Jong-il regime, North Korea’s actions have led many in the Lee government to view North Korea as much more of an immediate danger than previously thought.

The United States maintains about 28,500 troops in the ROK. Since 2009, the two sides have accelerated steps to transform the U.S.-ROK alliance’s primary purpose from one of defending against a North Korean attack to a regional and even global partnership. Washington and Seoul have announced a “Strategic Alliance 2015” plan to relocate U.S. troops on the Peninsula and boost ROK defense capabilities.

Much of the current closeness between Seoul and Washington is due to President Lee. It is unclear how sustainable many of his policies will be, particularly into 2012, when South Koreans will elect a new president and a new legislature. Bilateral coordination will be particularly tested if South Korea’s left-of-center groups, which bitterly oppose much of Lee’s agenda, retake the presidency and/or the National Assembly.



Date of Report: December 8, 2010
Number of Pages: 33
Order Number: R41481
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

U.S.-China Military Contacts: Issues for Congress


Shirley A. Kan
Specialist in Asian Security Affairs

This CRS report, updated as warranted, discusses policy issues regarding military-to-military (mil-to-mil) contacts with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and provides a record of major contacts and crises since 1993. The United States suspended military contacts with China and imposed sanctions on arms sales in response to the Tiananmen Crackdown in 1989. In 1993, the Clinton Administration re-engaged with the top PRC leadership, including China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Renewed military exchanges with the PLA have not regained the closeness reached in the 1980s, when U.S.-PRC strategic cooperation against the Soviet Union included U.S. arms sales to China. Improvements and deteriorations in overall bilateral relations have affected military contacts, which were close in 1997-1998 and 2000, but marred by the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait crisis, mistaken NATO bombing of a PRC embassy in 1999, the EP- 3 aircraft collision crisis in 2001, and aggressive naval confrontations (including in 2009).

In 2001, President Bush continued the policy of engagement with China, but the Pentagon skeptically reviewed and cautiously resumed mil-to-mil contacts. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in 2002, resumed the Defense Consultative Talks (DCT) with the PLA (first held in 1997) and, in 2003, hosted General Cao Gangchuan, a Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) and Defense Minister. General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited China in January 2004, as the highest ranking U.S. military officer to do so since November 2000. Rumsfeld visited China in 2005, the first visit by a defense secretary since William Cohen’s visit in 2000. In 2006, a CMC Vice Chairman, General Guo Boxiong, made the first visit to the United States by the highest ranking PLA commander after 1998.

Issues for Congress include whether the Obama Administration has complied with legislation overseeing dealings with the PLA and pursued contacts with the PLA that advances a prioritized set of U.S. security interests, especially the safety of U.S. military personnel. Oversight legislation includes the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for FY1990-FY1991 (P.L. 101-246) and National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2000 (P.L. 106-65). Skeptics and proponents of military exchanges with the PRC have debated whether the contacts have significant value for achieving U.S. objectives and whether the contacts have contributed to the PLA’s warfighting capabilities that might harm U.S. security interests. Some have argued about whether the value that U.S. officials have placed on the contacts overly extends leverage to the PLA. Officials believe talks can serve U.S. interests that include conflict prevention and crisis management; transparency and reciprocity; tension reduction over Taiwan; weapons nonproliferation; nuclear/space/cyber talks; counterterrorism; and accounting for POW/MIAs.

Policymakers could review the approach to mil-to-mil contacts, given concerns about crises. U.S. officials have reported inadequate cooperation from the PLA, including denials of port visits at Hong Kong and aid to U.S. Navy ships in distress (Thanksgiving 2007). The PLA has tried to use its suspensions of exchanges while blaming U.S. “obstacles” (including arms sales to Taiwan, legal restrictions on contacts, and the Pentagon’s reports to Congress on the PLA). The PRC’s harassment of U.S. surveillance ships (in 2009) and increasing assertiveness in maritime areas have shown the limits to mil-to-mil talks and PLA restraint. Still, at the Strategic and Economic Dialogue in July 2009, President Obama called for military contacts to diminish disputes with China. The NDAA for FY2010 (P.L. 111-84) amended P.L. 106-65 for the report on PRC military power to expand the focus to security developments involving the PRC, add cooperative elements, and fold in another report on mil-to-mil contacts. The two sides held a round of the DCT in December 2010, and the PLA belatedly invited Secretary Gates to visit in January 2011.



Date of Report: December 14, 2010
Number of Pages: 69
Order Number: RL32496
Price: $29.95

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

U.S.-Australia Civilian Nuclear Cooperation: Issues for Congress


Mary Beth Nikitin
Analyst in Nonproliferation

Bruce Vaughn
Specialist in Asian Affairs


Australia and the United States have cooperated in the peaceful use of nuclear energy since the mid-1950s. The framework for this cooperation is a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement as required by section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act. President Obama transmitted the proposed text of the latest renewal agreement to Congress on May 5, 2010, along with the required Nuclear Proliferation Assessment Statement (NPAS) and his determination that the agreement promotes U.S. national security. Congress has 30 days of continuous session for consultations with the Administration, followed by an additional 60 days of continuous session to review the agreement. If not opposed by a joint resolution of disapproval or other legislation, then the agreement will be considered approved at the end of this time period. Congress also has the option of adopting either a joint resolution of approval with (or without) conditions or standalone legislation that could approve or disapprove the agreement. On November 30, 2010, the House passed H.R. 6411 by voice vote. The bill would approve the agreement even if the required congressional review period is not reached. The Senate has not yet acted on its version of the bill (S. 3844).

The United States and Australia first concluded a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement in 1957. That agreement was updated in 1979. Australia sells around 36% of its $1 billion in uranium exports to the United States. The United States is also a major processor of Australian uranium sold to other countries. Australia does not currently possess any nuclear power plants, but it operates one research reactor.



Date of Report: December 1, 2010
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: R41312
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

North Korea’s 2009 Nuclear Test: Containment, Monitoring, Implications


Jonathan Medalia
Specialist in Nuclear Weapons Policy

On May 25, 2009, North Korea announced that it had conducted its second underground nuclear test. Unlike its first test, in 2006, there is no public record that the second one released radioactive materials indicative of a nuclear explosion. How could North Korea have contained these materials from the May 2009 event and what are the implications? As background, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) would ban all nuclear explosions. It was opened for signature in 1996. Entry into force requires ratification by 44 states specified in the treaty, including the United States and North Korea. As of November 2010, 153 states, including 35 of the 44, had ratified. North Korea has not signed the CTBT. President Clinton signed it in 1996; in 1999, the Senate voted not to consent to its ratification. In 2009, President Obama pledged to press for its ratification.

The treaty establishes a verification mechanism, including an International Monitoring System (IMS) to detect nuclear tests. Three IMS technologies detect waves that pass through the oceans (hydroacoustic), Earth (seismic), or atmosphere (infrasound); a fourth detects radioactive material from a nuclear test. Scientists concur that only the latter proves that an explosion was nuclear. Some believe that deep burial and other means can contain radioactive effluents. Another view is that containment is an art as much as a science. The United States learned to improve containment over several decades. Yet by one estimate, North Korea contained over 99.9% of the radioactive effluents from its 2009 test. It might have done so by application of lessons learned from its 2006 test or the U.S. nuclear test experience, use of a higher-yield device, release of material below the detection threshold, good luck, or some combination. Alternatively, the 2009 event may have been a nonnuclear explosion designed to simulate a nuclear test.

Containment could be of value to North Korea. It could keep radioactive fallout from China, Japan, Russia, or South Korea, averting an irritant in relations with them. It could prevent intelligence services from gathering material that could reveal information about the weapon that was tested. It could permit North Korea to host nuclear tests by other nations, such as Iran; while such tests would be detected by seismic means, they could not be attributed to another nation using technical forensic means if effluents, especially particles, were contained.

An issue for Congress is how containment could affect CTBT prospects. Supporters might argue that explosion-like seismic signals without detected radioactive material would lead to calls for an onsite inspection. Opponents might claim that only detection of radioactive material proves that a nuclear explosion occurred. Both would note inspections could not be required unless the treaty entered into force, supporters to point to a benefit of the treaty and opponents to note that North Korea could block inspections by not ratifying the treaty. Congress may wish to consider ways to improve monitoring capability, such as supporting further research on test signatures, improving monitoring system capability, and deploying more monitoring equipment. This update reflects developments in the North Korean uranium program and prospects for another nuclear test.

Related CRS reports include CRS Report RL34256, North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Technical Issues, which summarizes open-source information on that nation’s nuclear weapons program, including fissile material and warhead estimates, and assesses developments toward denuclearization; and CRS Report R40684, North Korea’s Second Nuclear Test: Implications of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874, which analyzes possible economic effects on North Korea of sanctions and vessel inspections that Resolution 1874 puts in place.


Date of Report: November 24, 2010
Number of Pages: 41
Order Number: R41160
Price: $29.95

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