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Northeast Asia in Afghanistan: Whose Silk Road?

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The continuing security vacuum, political instability, and economic listlessness in Afghanistan, stand as a testament to the limits of American power and the need to enroll the help of friends and allies to ensure regional peace and stability. The current U.S. strategy for Afghanistan recognizes that while military success against the Taliban and allied militant groups is essential, long-term stability can only come by gaining the support of the Afghan people, which entails providing them greater security, confidence in their government, and economic opportunities. While several of America’s European and Asian allies have contributed troops and financial assistance to Afghanistan, they also recognize the vital importance of Pakistan and the Central Asian states to the success of reconstructive efforts. In particular, the countries of Northeast Asia—China, South Korea, and Japan—have important roles to play in Afghanistan, and their influence is likely to increase as the United States begins to draw down its presence in the coming years. China, South Korea, and Japan are each in a unique position to contribute to Afghan reconstruction and regional security through bilateral programs and multilateral mechanisms that provide both economic opportunities and security.

“Northeast Asia in Afghanistan: Whose Silk Road?” aims to review Northeast Asian interests in Afghanistan, assess their relevance to the United States’ bilateral relations in the region, and explore potential opportunities for expanded cooperation in the region. It reviews past contributions to Afghan reconstruction made by China, South Korea, and Japan, and analyzes each country’s strategic, economic, and security interests in Afghanistan. By exploring areas of common interest and potential cooperation, this report aims to suggest opportunitiesto expand a multilateral strategy for bringing security and development to Afghanistan in the years ahead.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jae H. Ku, PhD, Director

Education:

PhD from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies; MSc from the London School of Economics; AB from Harvard University.

Background:

Jae H. Ku is the Director of the US-Korea Institute (USKI) at Johns Hopkins SAIS. Before joining the USKI, he was the Director of the Human Rights in North Korea Project at Freedom House. He has taught at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (Seoul, Korea), Brown University, Yonsei University (Seoul, Korea), and Sookmyung Women’s University (Seoul, Korea). His research interests are: Inter-Korean Relations, US-Korea relations, Democracy in Asia, and Human Rights in North Korea. He has been a recipient of both Fulbright and Freeman fellowships.

Publications:

His recent works include: Energy Security Cooperation in Northeast Asia, Ed. By Bo Kong and Jae H. Ku, Routledge, New York, 2015; “The Decline of Political Participation in Korea Between 2000-2011,” in Incomplete Democracies in the Asia-Pacific, Ed. By Giovanna Maria Dora Dore, Jae H. Ku, and Karl D. Jackson, Palgrave MacMillan, London, 2014; Co-Editor, China’s Domestic Politics and Foreign Policies and Major Countries’ Strategies Toward China, Korea Institute for National Unification, Seoul, South Korea, December  2012; Co-Author, “The Uneasiness of Big Brother-Littler Brother Relationships: China’s Relations with Neighboring Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Mongolia, and Myanmar,” in China’s Domestic Politics and Foreign Policies and Major Countries’ Strategies Toward China, Korea Institute for National Unification, Seoul, South Korea, December  2012; Co-Author, Northeast Asia in Afghanistan: Whose Silk Road?, US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins SAIS, March 29, 2011; and Co-Editor, Nuclear Security 2012:Challenges of Proliferation and Implication for the Korean Peninsula, Korea Institute for National Unification, Seoul, South Korea, December 31, 2010.