By Nathan Brown (MA ’18, International and Intercultural Communications)

DENVER—Jan. 24, 2017—Just four days after U.S. President Donald Trump’s inauguration, approximately 200 students, faculty, staff and Denver community members packed the Josef Korbel School of International Studies’ Maglione Hall to attend the Center for China-US Cooperation’s (CCUSC) event, “The Trump Administration’s Foreign Policy Challenge: East Asia.”

The free, public event was part of the CCUSC’s Jackson/Ho Forum series, which seeks to bring knowledgeable minds together to discuss issues around China-U.S. relations.

Dean Christopher Hill, a former U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Korea, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Affairs and the lead U.S. negotiator for the Six Party Talks, and CCUSC director Professor Suisheng Zhao, spoke about perennial East Asian issues that many recent U.S. presidents have faced, and also issues they predict will crop up during Trump’s presidency.

Dean Hill focused on issues related to the Korean Peninsula and China. “At the beginning of the Trump administration, there’s one thing that is happening that we all need to be aware of; that is, North Korea has certainly made progress in taking a nuclear device and making it a nuclear weapon,” he said. “There’s a lot of talk that the North Koreans are ‘testing Donald Trump.’ They’re not testing Donald Trump; they’re testing nuclear delivery systems. And I think we need to stop with the idea that this is all some big show, this is all some kind of fun, to test this untested new president, and to understand that what we’re really facing is that in the next four years, maybe sooner, North Korea will have a nuclear weapon.”

Dean Hill also discussed China’s attempt to seize control of the South China Sea from the Philippines; the new president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte; and President Trump’s talk of imposing heavy tariffs on China and questioning the “One China Policy,” which recently put the U.S.-China relationship on the rocks even before Trump took office.

American-Sino relations must be dealt with diplomatically under Trump if his administration hopes to make progress on the issue of North Korea, because, as Dean Hill said, China would not be indifferent to political change on the peninsula and it would be virtually impossible to even deal with North Korea without China.

Professor Zhao presented key challenges he predicts will face President Trump over the next four years, echoing some of the same issues raised by Dean Hill and the opportunity for the U.S. and South Korea to work together on key issues, noting that South Korea’s recent scandals have complicated the situation. Additionally, China’s refusal to recognize an international court’s ruling in favor of the Filipino claim to the South China Sea has increased tensions in East Asia.

Both speakers agreed that East Asia is a pivotal area and that the Trump administration cannot afford to ignore it.

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Founded in 1964, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies is one of the world’s leading schools for the study of international relations. The School offers degree programs in international affairs and public policy and is named in honor of its founder and first dean, Josef Korbel. Follow the Korbel School on Facebook and Twitter.