Charm works. That seems to be the message of SERI’s 2013:3 Korean Peninsula Security survey. The composite index of peninsular security rose to 48 (i.e. close to neutral) after hitting an all-time (i.e. back to 2005) low of 40 during the previous quarter. Sub-indices relating to North Korea’s external relations surged back from their all-time lows, with the index of military tensions between North and South Korea, soaring from 11 to 51. Indicators of the possibility of peaceful settlement of the North Korean nuclear issue and the possibility of North Korea abandoning its nuclear program, both showed sharp gains, from 15 to 34, and 9 to 27 respectively.
Indicators of North Korea’s political stability, socio-economic stability, and military stability all rose.
The highest score was on South Korea-China relations (73), an all-time high. (China-North Korea relations got a 48.) Other high scores were the perception of China’s leadership toward South Korea (70), perception of US leadership toward South Korea (66), US-South Korean relations (64—i.e. worse than China-South Korea relations), the stability of the US-South Korea military alliance (63), and China-Russia relations (60). The lowest scoring indicators were China-Japan relations (22), South Korea-Japan relations (26), the possibility of North Korean voluntary nuclear disarmament (27), and US-Russia relations (28). Indeed, Japan’s relations with the US (53) were rated even lower than US relations with China (59).
The index of US-North Korea relations rebounded sharply, from 17 to 41, but a breakdown of survey responses reveals that American analysts, while observing improvement, have a far more skeptical attitude toward the relationship (29) than those in China and South Korea (both 47).