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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

U.S.-South Korea Relations

Mark E. Manyin, Coordinator
Specialist in Asian Affairs

Emma Chanlett-Avery
Specialist in Asian Affairs

Mary Beth Nikitin
Specialist in Nonproliferation

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 four 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; using Pyongyang’s provocations as opportunities to tighten sanctions against North Korean entities; and insisting that significant multilateral and U.S. talks with North Korea must be preceded by improvements in North-South Korean relations. 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 medium term. 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. As a result, South Korea has adopted a new defense posture of “aggressive deterrence” that would involve a more significant military response to any North Korean attacks.

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. Some Members of Congress have criticized the relocation plans.

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: July 8, 2011
Number of Pages: 31
Order Number: R41481
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress

Ronald O'Rourke
Specialist in Naval Affairs

The question of how the United States should respond to China’s military modernization effort, including its naval modernization effort, has emerged as a key issue in U.S. defense planning. Admiral Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, stated in June 2010 that “I have moved from being curious to being genuinely concerned” about China’s military programs. The question of how the United States should respond to China’s military modernization effort is of particular importance to the U.S. Navy, because many U.S. military programs for countering improved Chinese military forces would fall within the Navy’s budget.

Decisions that Congress and the executive branch make regarding U.S. Navy programs for countering improved Chinese maritime military capabilities could affect the likelihood or possible outcome of a potential U.S.-Chinese military conflict in the Pacific over Taiwan or some other issue. Some observers consider such a conflict to be very unlikely, in part because of significant U.S.-Chinese economic linkages and the tremendous damage that such a conflict could cause on both sides. In the absence of such a conflict, however, the U.S.-Chinese military balance in the Pacific could nevertheless influence day-to-day choices made by other Pacific countries, including choices on whether to align their policies more closely with China or the United States. In this sense, decisions that Congress and the executive branch make regarding U.S. Navy programs for countering improved Chinese maritime military forces could influence the political evolution of the Pacific, which in turn could affect the ability of the United States to pursue goals relating to various policy issues, both in the Pacific and elsewhere.

China’s naval modernization effort, which began in the 1990s, encompasses a broad array of weapon acquisition programs, including anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs), submarines, and surface ships. China’s naval modernization effort also includes reforms and improvements in maintenance and logistics, naval doctrine, personnel quality, education, training, and exercises.

Observers believe that the near-term focus of China’s military modernization effort has been to develop military options for addressing the situation with Taiwan. Consistent with this goal, observers believe that China wants its military to be capable of acting as a so-called anti-access force—a force that can deter U.S. intervention in a conflict involving Taiwan, or failing that, delay the arrival or reduce the effectiveness of intervening U.S. naval and air forces. Observers believe that China’s military modernization effort, including its naval modernization effort, is increasingly oriented toward pursuing additional goals, such as asserting or defending China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea; enforcing China’s view—a minority view among world nations—that it has the right to regulate foreign military activities in its 200- mile maritime exclusive economic zone (EEZ); protecting China’s sea lines of communications; protecting and evacuating Chinese nationals living and working in foreign countries; displacing U.S. influence in the Pacific; and asserting China’s status as a major world power.

Placing an increased emphasis on U.S. Navy programs for countering improved Chinese maritime military capabilities in coming years could lead to one or more of the following: developing and procuring highly capable ships, aircraft, and weapons for defeating Chinese anti-access systems; assigning a larger percentage of the Navy to the Pacific Fleet; homeporting more of the Pacific Fleet’s ships at forward locations such as Hawaii, Guam, and Japan; increasing training and exercises in operations relating to countering Chinese maritime anti-access forces; and increasing activities for monitoring and understanding developments in China’s navy, as well as activities for measuring and better understanding operating conditions in the Western Pacific.

Date of Report: June 13, 2011
Number of Pages: 130
Order Number: RL33153
Price: $29.95

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Imports from North Korea: Existing Rules, Implications of the KORUS FTA, and the Kaesong Industrial Complex

Mark E. Manyin, Coordinator
Specialist in Asian Affairs

Jeanne J. Grimmett
Legislative Attorney

Vivian C. Jones
Specialist in International Trade and Finance

Dick K. Nanto
Specialist in Industry and Trade

Michaela D. Platzer
Specialist in Industrial Organization and Business

Dianne E. Rennack
Specialist in Foreign Policy Legislation

In early 2011, many Members of Congress focused their attention on U.S. rules and practices governing the importation of products and components from North Korea. Their interest was stimulated by debate over the proposed South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) and the question of whether the agreement could lead to increased imports from North Korea. Some observers, particularly many opposed to the agreement, have argued that the KORUS FTA could increase imports from North Korea if South Korean firms re-export items made in the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), a seven-year-old industrial park located in North Korea, where more than 100 South Korean manufacturers employ over 45,000 North Korean workers. Two concerns expressed by critics are (1) that South Korean firms could obtain low-cost KICmade goods or components, incorporate them into finished products and then reship the goods to the United States with “Made in [South] Korea” labels so that they would receive preferential treatment under the KORUS FTA; and (2) that such exports would benefit the North Korean government.

At present, North Korea’s relative economic isolation and an array of U.S. restrictions have resulted in less than $350,000 in U.S. cumulative imports from North Korea since 2000. Thus, the issue of U.S. imports from North Korea is essentially about what might happen in the future.

This report examines the issue of U.S. imports from North Korea in three parts: 

  • U.S. rules and practices governing imports from North Korea. The United States does not maintain a comprehensive embargo against North Korea. However, imports from North Korea require approval from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). This restriction includes finished goods originating in North Korea as well as goods that contain North Korea-made components. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), of the Department of Homeland Security, is responsible for reviewing an importer’s OFAC license as the goods enter the United States. 
  • North Korea’s exports to South Korea (via the KIC) and China, its dominant export markets. In 2010, over three-quarters of North Korea’s export shipments went to China and South Korea. Most of North Korea’s $1.2 billion in exports to China in 2010 were mineral resources or primary products (such as fish, shellfish, and agro-forest products). An increasing proportion of North Korea’s exports to South Korea have become attributable to activities in the KIC, where factories manufactured more than $320 million in goods in 2010, a 25% increase over 2009. The present South Korean government has halted plans for a major expansion of the complex. If a future South Korean government resumes these plans, or if China and North Korea significantly boost bilateral economic integration, more North Korean goods and components could enter global supply chains and test U.S. restrictions against North Korean imports. 
  • The KORUS FTA’s potential effect on U.S. imports of North Korean content. The KORUS FTA appears likely to have only a minimal impact on whether U.S. sanctions on North Korean imports are put to the test. At present, the agreement would not give preferential treatment to finished products made in the KIC. The agreement would establish a binational committee to discuss whether zones such as the KIC should be given preferential treatment in the future. The committee would operate by consensus, and Congress would need to pass a law to extend any KORUS FTA tariff benefits to products made in the KIC. Moreover, the KORUS FTA contains provisions that make it highly unlikely the agreement would constrain the United States’ ability to maintain its restrictions on North Korean products. Many critics of the KORUS FTA argue that the agreement’s rules of origin would make it possible for South Korean exports with North Korean components to receive preferential treatment. However, the KORUS FTA’s rules of origin do not appear to limit the United States’ ability to enforce its restrictions on imported products that contain North Korean inputs. 
The issue of how best to handle imports from North Korea appears to center on customs controls, cooperation, and enforcement. The complex nature of many types of goods, such as automobiles and electronics, poses a particular challenge for Customs and Border Protection officials to determine the origin of these products. There is no means to determine with one hundred percent certainty that there are no goods or components originating in North Korea entering U.S. commerce without proper authorization. This will be true regardless of whether the KORUS FTA is in effect. Thus, perhaps the most important factor that will determine whether U.S. restrictions on North Korean imports are tested appears to be the degree to which North Korean goods enter global supply chains.

Date of Report: July 8, 2011
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: R41859
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

China’s Economic Conditions

Wayne M. Morrison
Specialist in Asian Trade and Finance

Prior to the initiation of economic reforms and trade liberalization 32 years ago, China maintained policies that kept the economy very poor, stagnant, centrally controlled, vastly inefficient, and relatively isolated from the global economy. Since opening up to foreign trade and investment in 1979, China has been one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and has emerged as a major economic and trade power. China’s rapid economic growth has sharply improved Chinese living standards and helped raise hundreds of millions of people out of extreme poverty. In 2010, China was the world’s second largest economy, largest merchandise exporter, second largest merchandise importer, second largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI), and largest holder of foreign exchange reserves.

The global economic crisis that began in 2008 significantly affected China’s economy, especially its external sector. China’s trade (both exports and imports) and inflows of FDI diminished sharply, and millions of workers reportedly lost their jobs. The Chinese government responded by implementing a $586 billion economic stimulus package (largely aimed at infrastructure projects), loosening monetary policies to increase bank lending, and providing various incentives to boost domestic consumption. Such policies enabled China to effectively weather the effects of the sharp global fall in demand for Chinese products. While several of the world’s leading economies, including the United States, experienced negative or stagnant gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2008 and 2009, China achieved real GDP growth rates of 9.6% and 9.2%, respectively. In 2010, China’s exports recovered to pre-crisis levels, and real GDP grew 10.3%. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects that China’s real GDP will grow by 9.6% in 2011 and increase at an average rate of 9.5% over the next five years.

Some economic forecasters project that China will overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy within a few years, although U.S. per capita GDP levels are expected to remain much larger than that of China for many years to come. Many economists contend that the ability of China to maintain a rapidly growing economy in the long run will depend largely on the ability of the Chinese government is to implement comprehensive economic reforms that more quickly hasten China’s transition to a free market economy, and to rebalance the Chinese economy by making consumer demand, rather than exporting, the main engine of China’s economic growth. China faces numerous other challenges as well that could affect its future economic growth (as well as internal political stability), such as widespread pollution, growing income disparities, an undeveloped social safety net, poorly enforced economic regulations, and extensive involvement of the state in several economic sectors.

China’s economic rise has significant implications for the United States and hence is of major interest to Congress. On the one hand, China is a large (and potentially huge) export market for the United States. Many U.S. firms use China as the final point of assembly in their global supply chain networks. China’s large holdings of U.S. Treasury securities help the federal government finance its budget deficits and keep U.S. interest rates low. However, some analysts contend that China maintains a number of distortive economic policies (such as an undervalued currency and protectionist industrial policies) that undermine U.S. economic interests. They warn that efforts by the Chinese government to promote the development of indigenous innovation and technology could mean that Chinese firms will increasingly pose a “competitive challenge” to many leading U.S. industries. This report surveys the rise of China’s economy, describes major economic challenges facing China, and discusses the implications of China’s economic development for the United States.

Date of Report: July 24, 2011
Number of Pages: 29
Order Number: RL33534
Price: $29.95

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

China/Taiwan: Evolution of the “One China” Policy—Key Statements from Washington, Beijing, and Taipei

Shirley A. Kan
Specialist in Asian Security Affairs

Despite apparently consistent statements in four decades, the U.S. “one China” policy concerning Taiwan remains somewhat ambiguous and subject to different interpretations. Apart from questions about what the “one China” policy entails, issues have arisen about whether U.S. Presidents have stated clear positions and have changed or should change policy, affecting U.S. interests in security and democracy. In Part I, this CRS Report, updated as warranted, discusses the “one China” policy since the United States began in 1971 to reach presidential understandings with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) government in Beijing. Part II records the evolution of policy as affected by legislation and key statements by Washington, Beijing, and Taipei. Taiwan formally calls itself the Republic of China (ROC), celebrating in 2011 the 100th anniversary of its founding. Policy covers three major issue areas: sovereignty over Taiwan; PRC use of force or coercion against Taiwan; and cross-strait dialogue. The United States recognized the ROC until the end of 1978 and has maintained an official, non-diplomatic relationship with Taiwan after recognition of the PRC in 1979. The United States did not explicitly state the sovereign status of Taiwan in the U.S.-PRC Joint Communiques of 1972, 1979, and 1982. The United States “acknowledged” the “one China” position of both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Since 1971, U.S. Presidents—both secretly and publicly—have articulated a “one China” policy in understandings with the PRC. Congressional oversight has watched for any new agreements and any shift in the U.S. stance closer to that of Beijing’s “one China” principle—on questions of sovereignty, arms sales, or dialogue. Not recognizing the PRC’s claim over Taiwan or Taiwan as a sovereign state, U.S. policy has considered Taiwan’s status as unsettled. With added conditions, U.S. policy leaves the Taiwan question to be resolved by the people on both sides of the strait: a “peaceful resolution” with the assent of Taiwan’s people and without unilateral changes. In short, U.S. policy focuses on the process of resolution of the Taiwan question, not any set outcome.

The Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) of 1979, P.L. 96-8, has governed U.S. policy in the absence of a diplomatic relationship or a defense treaty. The TRA stipulates the expectation that the future of Taiwan “will be determined” by peaceful means. The TRA specifies that it is U.S. policy, among the stipulations: to consider any non-peaceful means to determine Taiwan’s future “a threat” to the peace and security of the Western Pacific and of “grave concern” to the United States; “to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character;” and “to maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion” jeopardizing the security, or social or economic system of Taiwan’s people. The TRA provides a congressional role in determining security assistance “necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.” President Reagan also offered “Six Assurances” to Taipei in 1982, partly covering arms sales.

Policymakers have continued to face unresolved issues, while the political and strategic context of the policy has changed dramatically since the 1970s. Since the mid-1990s, U.S. interests in the military balance as well as peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait have been challenged by the PRC’s military buildup (particularly in missiles) and coercion, resistance in Taiwan by the Kuomintang (KMT) party to raising defense spending, and moves perceived by Beijing for de jure independence under Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) President Chen Shui-bian (2000- 2008). After May 2008, KMT President Ma Ying-jeou resumed the cross-strait dialogue (after a decade)—beyond seeking detente. With President Obama since 2009, a rhetorical convergence emerged among the three sides about “peaceful development” of cross-strait engagement, but disagreement has remained about the PRC’s opposition to U.S. arms sales for Taiwan’s defense. On June 16, 2011, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing: “Why Taiwan Matters.”

Date of Report: June 24, 2011
Number of Pages: 86
Order Number: RL30341
Price: $29.95

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