Realism on the Korean Peninsula

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What price does China want for North Korea?

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Richard Haass offers some advice to the Obama administration:

American and South Korean officials need to do more than just point out the risk to their Chinese counterparts of China’s current course. They also need to discuss the character of a unified Korea and how one would get there, addressing legitimate Chinese strategic concerns including the questions of non-Korean troop presence and the full denuclearization of the peninsula. …

South Korea’s president may have signaled an interest in just this on Monday, saying “It is now time for the North Korean regime to change.” President Obama should follow suit. There would be no better way to mark this June’s 60th anniversary of the Korean war. [Emphasis mine.]

Jennifer Rubin thinks this is a sign that "realists are becoming neocons" as they embrace regime change and reject the Obama administration's foreign policy. Richard Haass can obviously speak for himself, but reading the sentiment above I somehow rather doubt he's endorsing a policy that the folks at Contentions would rally around. Negotiating with China and, importantly, addressing their legitimate concerns about the nature of a U.S. troop presence in a unified Korea? Sounds like appeasement to me!

So here's a question: would neoconservatives prefer a unified Korea (i.e. "regime change") if the consequence of reunification was the removal of all U.S. forces from the peninsula?

I don't know how adamant the Chinese leadership is about the issue, but I suspect that it would rank rather high as a national security issue. If the price of winning over China on Korea is a pledge to withdraw U.S. forces from the Korean peninsula after Korea was made whole, would neoconservatives embrace the trade-off, or damn the administration that made such a deal as selling out America's interests in Asia and allowing China to expand her sphere of influence?

(AP Photo)

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