Partnership within Hierarchy

The Evolving East Asian Security Triangle

By Sung Chull Kim

Subjects: International Relations, Asian Studies
Paperback : 9781438463940, 294 pages, January 2018
Hardcover : 9781438463933, 294 pages, March 2017

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Table of contents

List of Tables

1. Introduction

2. Partnership within Hierarchy: An Analytic Frame

3. Repatriation of Korean Residents from Japan to North Korea

4. Japan-ROK Normalization Talks and Institutionalization of the Security Triangle

5. Japan’s Two Koreas Policy and Its Commitment to U.S.-Japan Alliance in the UN

6. Japan-ROK Security-Based Economic Cooperation: U.S.-Framed Burden Sharing

7. Controversy over Historical Issues

8. North Korea Factor and the Persistence of the Security Triangle

9. Conclusions


Examines intra-alliance politics between the United States, Japan, and South Korea.


In an age of increasingly complex security situations around the world, it is essential that students and practitioners understand alliances and minilateral security mechanisms. Partnership within Hierarchy examines, in depth, the troubled evolution of the US–Japan–South Korea security triangle from the Cold War period to the present time. Referencing a voluminous amount of declassified documents in three different languages, Sung Chull Kim, through six case studies, delves into the common questions arising in different historical periods, such as who should pay costs, what to commit, and why. Burden sharing and commitment, Kim shows, emerged as the main subject of competing expectations and disagreements arising between the capable middle power Japan and the weak power South Korea. Kim details how the dominant power, the United States, has controlled the red lines and intervened in the disputes, the result of which is in most instances a balancing effect for the triangle. In this vein, he persuasively accounts for why historical disputes between Japan and South Korea, which submerged during the Cold War, reverberate today when asymmetry between the two is substantially balanced.

Sung Chull Kim is Humanities Korea Professor at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University and the author of North Korea under Kim Jong Il: From Consolidation to Systemic Dissonance, also published by SUNY Press.


"…an interesting and forward-looking discussion of post-Second World War and post-Cold War dynamics between the United States, Japan and South Korea … Kim offers an original insight into east Asian security and the book is a timely addition to the literature both on regional security as well as on intra-alliance politics. It is especially useful as a theoretical contribution to triangular security and is particularly timely given that Japan has expressed interest in forming a triangular security arrangement with the United States and China." — International Affairs

"…the book offers important insights for the study of international relations and foreign policy, particularly in the post–Cold War period, when the US is often bound together with allies that may not necessarily share the same strategic interests." — Pacific Affairs

"This book adds a thoughtful framework to our understanding of the United States–Japan–South Korea triangle over six decades. It also serves the field well by linking six critical decisions in Japan-Korea relations over this time period and the US impact to the overall framework." — Gilbert Rozman, author of The Sino-Russian Challenge to the World Order: National Identities, Bilateral Relations, and East versus West in the 2010s

"Sung Chull Kim provides a fascinating narrative for the evolution of the triangular relationship." — Terence Roehrig, coauthor of South Korea's Rise: Economic Development, Power, and Foreign Relations