Date of Graduation

Spring 5-18-2018

Document Access

Restricted Project/Capstone - USF access only

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Asia Pacific Studies (MAPS)


College of Arts and Sciences


Asia Pacific Studies

First Advisor

Professor John K. Nelson

Second Advisor

Lt.Col (RET) Rene Perez


Events surrounding the Korean Peninsula are changing faster than perhaps anytime before 2008. The rise to power of Kim Jong-un following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, ushered in a “changing of the guard” within the Korean Workers Party and a rapid acceleration of the country’s nuclear weapons development program. The pace and unpredictability of the young Kim have been recently matched by the election of U.S. president Donald Trump, who quickly set about to dismantle the policies of his predecessors and actively seeks to defy both Republicans and Democrats as he brings his own “style” of leadership to the international scene. As if these two leaders’ increasingly aggressive postures towards each other aren’t enough, add to this mix: The revisionist aspirations of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, whose Liberal Democratic Party has begun pushing harder for constitutional recognition of the Japanese-Self Defense Forces and a more influential international presence; the aggressive acquisition and development of maritime territory by the Peoples Republic of China (PRC), whose President Xi Jinping has amassed enough political power to rival Mao Zedong; and President Moon Jae-in and his attempts to broker dialogue between the U.S. and the DPRK as he balances the Republic of Korea (ROK) in the midst of all these forces. What are the policies of each state, and what motives influenced their formulation? Are the conditions ripe for a push towards reconciliation? Should involved states take more conservative approaches and attempt to maintain the status quo of manage distrust? Or, are the more volatile variables involved so determined to clash that preparations should be made for war? This paper shall analyze all three possible scenarios such that the forces driving them may be more comprehensively understood.

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