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Authors: Wong, Audrye
Advisors: Ikenberry, John
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2013
Abstract: Japan and South Korea are both American allies who are also economically interdependent on China. Yet, their policy strategies toward a constantly rising China have diverged and converged over the years. Existing theories have not adequately addressed these variations. This paper characterizes Japan and South Korea as middle states, caught in between China and the United States. Unlike milieu-oriented great power grand strategies, middle state policy strategies tend to be reactive and situational, responding first to local and imminent threats rather than abstract, structural threats. A dual threat framework explains why Japanese and South Korean behaviors diverge. Foreign policy depends on the interaction between two sources of threat: the potential systemic threat of China as well as the local threat of North Korea. While North Korea was initially the most imminent security threat for both states, Japan’s sense of a China threat grew progressively more direct, shifting from potentiality to present imminence. It was the localization of the Chinese threat over maritime and territorial clashes, rather than China’s structural rise, that prompted major changes in Tokyo’s security policy. In contrast, South Korea has adopted fluctuating strategies toward China, because threat perception of China is first mediated through Chinese policy on North Korea and how well it aligns with South Korean preferences. National identity gaps also contribute to differing threat perceptions of China. Since 2010, both Japan and South Korea have aligned strongly toward the United States and away from China, but such convergence stemmed from different causal paths. Although changes in domestic political leadership has often been cited as the reason for shifting foreign policies, it remains more a moderating than an intervening or determining variable in state alignment toward China.
Extent: 144 pages
Access Restrictions: Walk-in Access. This thesis can only be viewed on computer terminals at the Mudd Manuscript Library.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2016

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