On Geopolitics

Korea's Place in History

Rodger Baker
Senior VP of Strategic Analysis, Stratfor
Jan 16, 2018 | 08:00 GMT
Throughout history, Korea has been at times a buffer state, at times a bridgehead -- the proverbial minnow between whales.

At various points in its history, Korea has acted as a buffer between China and Japan, Japan and Russia, China and the United States, and even the European imperial powers and China.

(ANTON BALAZH/Shutterstock)

The approach of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, may bring a respite, however brief, from the perception of imminent war on the Korean Peninsula. Feeling squeezed by the United States and China, the two sides of the 38th parallel agreed to resume talks with each other. Seoul and Pyongyang alike face economic pressure from Beijing, after all, and both fear Washington's military posturing, because while North Korea would be the target of a U.S. preventive war, South Korea would be its battleground. As the dialogue kicked off, Pyongyang and Seoul set out to shape their positions not only with regard to the other, but also in relation to other countries in the region. North Korea, for example, noted that it would not discuss its nuclear program since its missiles are aimed not at South Korea (or China or Russia) but only at the United States. And South Korea...

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