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The EU and the Korean Peninsula: Diplomatic Support, Economic Aid and Security Cooperation


The EU has a policy of “critical engagement” with North Korea. This implies that Brussels should not discontinue relations with Pyongyang, but should take an approach in which “carrots” and “sticks” are mixed depending on the behaviour of Kim Jong-un’s regime. Considering this policy, what strategy should the EU follow in relation to developments in the Korean Peninsula? This paper argues that Brussels should take a three-pronged approach. It should offer diplomatic support to South Korea’s policy towards its northern neighbour, continue to provide economic aid to North Korea and engage in cooperation with partners seeking to counter Pyongyang’s threats to international security. This strategy will ensure that the EU has its own, independent voice in the Korean Peninsula – thus making Brussels a more relevant player in East Asian affairs. The strategy also implies that the EU should take a more proactive approach towards the region were the Six-Party Talks (SPT), or a similar diplomatic effort, be restored. This would tie in with the EU’s Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy, as well as with High Representative Federica Mogherini’s willingness to make Brussels a more active player in East Asian affairs.

Paper presented at the international conference “Trust-building in North East Asia and the Role of the EU” organized in Rome on 21 October 2016 by the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) with the kind support of the Korea Foundation (KF).

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