“Through 6 Looking Glasses: The Detente and Post-Cold War Era around the Korean Peninsula”


Korean Peninsula among Big Powers: 1972 vs 2014 surveys international relations among both Koreas and the powerful neighbors that surround the Korean Peninsula, namely Japan, China, Russia, and the U.S., during both the U.S.-China detente period in the 1970s and the current post-cold war situation. This book uses a Multi-dimensional and diachronic approach to search for answers to questions such as why the mini-detente that took place between the two Koreas during the larger U.S.-China detente failed and why the Korean Peninsula cannot shake off cold war tensions despite the cold war having ended 25 years ago.




Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, is the birthplace of this book. After attending a meeting held by International Political Science Association in Madrid in the summer of 2012, I visited the Guggenheim Museum. The special exhibition of the artworks of David Hockney, the master of modern pop art, was being held. While having a look around at his stunning masterpieces, I went into a small room where I encountered a still frame that said, “Nov. 7th, Nov. 26th 2010, Woldgate Woods, 11.30 am and 9.30 am.” Hockney had attempted to recreate Woldgate Woods walkways in his hometown, East Yorkshire, England, in three dimensions. He had attached nine video cameras on the front of cars in November 2010 so that each camera could film the walkway from a different angle. Then he combined the nine different images into one large image. Finally, he contrasted the walkway on two different days – one sunny and one snowy. The moment I saw the piece, I suggested Professor Jae Seong Jeon, who was standing right next to me, that we should recreate our Korean peninsula just like Hockney had recreated the walkway, metaphorically. In fact, we have used six different “cameras” in Korean Peninsula among Big Powers: 1972 vs 2014 – South Korea, North Korea, U.S., China, Japan, and the Soviet Union – to capture images from six different perspectives; to capture the failure of the mini-détente on the Korean peninsula before in 1972 and to compare that failure to the difficulties of ending the Cold War on the Korean peninsula still in 2014. We have tried to reveal the true aspects of the Korean peninsula.


The first difficulty I faced as I came back to Seoul and prepared to write was finding the scholars who could capture the perspectives of the Soviet Union and North Korea back in the 1970s. Although I luckily found a scholar to capture the Soviet Union perspective, I could not find one for North Korea. Thus, I, as the general manger, decided to take care of capturing North Korea as well. During the first meeting in November 2012, twelve authors discussed how to effectively recreate and depict the détente in the 1970s and the Korean peninsula during the current Post-Cold War era in the 2010s. As a preliminary step, all of us tried to minimize the possible distortions that could happen while we compile our information due to our different perspectives. Therefore, we agreed to fully utilize core diplomatic documents from the six countries: The Kissinger-Zhou En Lai negotiation documents from the 1970s, the July 4th North-South Joint Statement, and other relevant, core documents from the 2010s. Then to capture the 1970s’ détente and Korea in “three dimensions” just as Hockney had done with his piece, we combined the perspectives of all six different nations into one big picture. At the same time, we also prepared the other big picture of post-cold war era and Korea in the 2010s. During this process, we transformed the abstruse concept of spatiotemporal complexity into a bit more perceptible concept. We experienced not only the spatial correlation present between Korean peninsula and the world, but also the temporal correlation between two time periods – Détente in the 1970s and the post-cold war era in the 2010s. As the last step, based on twelve completed first-drafts, we analytically discussed why the July 4th North-South Joint Statement became no more than a push and a failure in Korea during the successful détente between the big powers in the 1970s, and why the ending of the cold war among the big powers in the 2010s was still not leading to the ending of the cold war in Korean peninsula. By the summer of 2014, we wrapped up writing all of the final-drafts.


We have spent almost two years to co-write Korean Peninsula among Big Powers: 1972 vs 2014. It was a fruitful time. Even now, the majority of our research on our world does not break away from our outdated, simple-minded view – considering space and time as two separate concepts and dismissing the complexity between them. Korean Peninsula among Big Powers: 1972 vs 2014 was an important experiment to really materialize the complexity between space and time and integrate them together. I thank all of the authors who have participated in this co-production. These seasoned scholars who represent the best of academia had to go through the reading of documents and in-depth discussions every month in a graduate school seminar-like atmosphere. Still, everyone passionately engaged in the work and shared the joy as an intellectual community. Even now, the domestic research on modern Korean history and Korean foreign policy are having a hard time breaking away from oversimplified methodology and a dichotomous way of thinking; we are not surpassing the limit set by our own self-complacency. Thus, our experiment was an attempt to surpass our limit, to capture the spatiotemporal complexity that will ultimately provide us with a new breakthrough for “new” Korean peninsula policies and discussion in the 21st century.


East Asia Institute’s consistent and thorough support has allowed this experiment to be successfully carried out. Even though the themes of the research covered fundamental, sometimes too basic, and long-term based topics, President Sook- Jong Lee acknowledged the importance of the experiment’s vision and provided unsparing support. Moreover, team leader Jin Seok Bae and program officers Yang Gyu Kim and Jae Sung Ryu have enabled systematic arrangement, copying, and distribution of an expansive amount of primary sources about the situations around the Korean peninsula and the four big powers in the 1970s and in the 2010s. Their dedication has also enabled an in-depth discussion every month. Lastly, I would like to mention team leader Young Hwan Shin, who compiled the final reports into a single volume book.




Table of Contents




Part I. 1972


Chapter 1 From Enemy to Tacit Ally: The U.S. Approach to China during the Early Stages of Detente / Sang-yoon Ma
Chapter 2 China’s 1972 Detente with the U.S.: Background, Strategy, and Historical Implications / Dong Ryul Lee
Chapter 3 U.S.-China Detente and Japan: Politics and Negotiations during Normalization of Relations between China and Japan / Yul Sohn
Chapter 4 U.S.-China Detente and the Soviet Union: Recognizing and Coping with the International Situation / Yoon Hee Kang
Chapter 5 North Korea’s Search for Truth in 1972: The Push For then Abolishment of the 7•4 Joint Communiqué / Young-Sun Ha
Chapter 6 The Park Chung Hee Administration’s Choice during Detente / Dong-Joon Jo

Part II. 2014


Chapter 7 The Obama Administration’s Policy towards China: Mutual Recognition of Coexistence with Asia and a Constant Tension / Byoung-Kwon Sohn
Chapter 8 The Changing International Order and the Competitive U.S.-China Relationship: China’s Strategic Position and the Direction of Its Policy / Byung Kwang Park
Chapter 9 Japan’s Changing 21st Century Diplomatic Strategy: The Conversion to an Normal State and the Rise of Multi-Dimensional Diplomacy / Seungjoo Lee
Chapter 10 Change in the Power Composition of Northeast Asia and Russia’s New Policy towards the Northeast Asia / Beom-Shik Shin
Chapter 11 Reading North Korean Style International Politics in the Age of the U.S. and China: The Heritage of the Myth of Invincible Independent Diplomacy / Sungbae Kim
Chapter 12 South Korea’s Strategy on the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia: Current Status and Issues / Chaesung Chun


*This preface was translated from the original Korean by EAI intern June Pyo Suh and edited by Ben Engel and Jaesung Ryu.

Major Project

Center for National Security Studies

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