April 11, 2018 | By Karl Friedhoff

Diplomacy in the Air on Korean Peninsula

Diplomacy is in the air on the Korean Peninsula. On April 27, South Korea’s Moon Jae-in will meet North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, and then roughly one month later Donald Trump is slated to meet Kim at a location to be determined. These summits have largely been welcomed as either the beginning of more serious negotiations or at least a brief reprieve from the tensions that defined late 2017. But there are concerns that a failure in diplomacy could leave military conflict as the last option. That is an outcome that would be disastrous for South Koreans and is opposed by a majority of Americans in most polls.   

In South Korea, there is high approval of the upcoming summits. A Hankook Research poll conducted from March 26-27, 2018 finds that 86 percent favor the upcoming Moon-Kim summit and 86 percent also favor the Trump-Kim summit.

Despite this support, doubts persist about North Korea’s true intentions. Seven in ten (70%) South Koreans say that North Korea is unwilling to give up its nuclear weapons and missiles. Perhaps because of this, there is little appetite in South Korea for a unilateral rollback of sanctions placed on North Korea. Nearly two-thirds (64%) want to maintain sanctions until progress is made. Just 30 percent think that easing sanctions should take place as an inducement.

These numbers help to frame President Moon’s pragmatic approach to North Korea. While pushing for engagement with North Korea, he has not called for concessions. Instead, he seems to be reading the public mood—a public that wants talks but not at the cost of another round of giveaways to North Korea. In taking this approach, his approval rates continue to hover around 70 percent.

In the unlikely event that North Korea gives up its weapons, what would become of US forces currently stationed in South Korea is an open question. But the South Korean public is clear on its preference—69 percent say that US forces should remain on the Korean Peninsula with just 27 percent saying US forces should leave.

Meanwhile, opinion in the United States on North Korea remains mostly opposed to military strikes against North Korea, but at least one poll has found support. In a Quinnipaic poll in January 2018, a majority (53%) say it is more important to avoid war with North Korea as opposed to 38 percent who say it is more important to take away North Korea’s nuclear weapons. In a poll by the same firm in October 2017, just 26 percent supported a preemptive strike against North Korea, with 62 percent opposed. An ABC poll from September 2017 found 67 percent said the US should only attack North Korea if it attacks American or its allies versus 23 percent that said the US should strike first. But from that same month, a CBS poll found a majority (58%) approve of military action against North Korea if diplomacy does not work.

The upcoming summits will be critical in determining how the situation on the Korean Peninsula develops moving forward. But in both South Korea and the United States there is hope that military confrontation can be avoided.

About

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights critical shifts in American public thinking on US foreign policy through public opinion surveys and research conducted under the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. 

The annual Chicago Council Survey, first conducted in 1974, is a valuable resource for policymakers, academics, media, and the general public. The Council also surveys American leaders in government, business, academia, think tanks, and religious organizations biennially to compare trends in their thinking with overall trends. And collaborating with partner organizations, the survey team periodically conducts parallel surveys of public opinion in other regions of the world to compare with US public opinion. 

The Running Numbers blog features regular commentary and analysis from the Council’s public opinion and US foreign policy research team, including a series of flash polls of a select group of foreign policy experts to assess their opinions on critical foreign policy topics driving the news.

Archive


| By Bettina Hammer

Americans Aren't Fans of Arms Sales

The United States has long been the tops arms supplier in the world. Yet public opinion data shows that Americans aren’t fans of U.S. arms sales.


| By Bettina Hammer

Little Admiration for the United States among MENA Publics

Most Americans believe that respect and admiration for the United States are instrumental in achieving US foreign policy goals. But a new poll finds publics in the Middle East and North Africa continue to view the United States unfavorably. 


| By Bettina Hammer

Peace to Prosperity Misses the Mark with Palestinians

At the June 25-26 Bahrain Peace to Prosperity Workshop, Jared Kushner presented the first component of a U.S. peace plan for the Middle East. But how does this plan sit with the Palestinian public?



| By Dina Smeltz, Brendan Helm

Scholars vs the Public: Collapse of the INF Treaty

In early February 2019, the United States withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty following President Trump’s October 2018 (and the Obama administration’s July 2014) accusations that Russia was failing to comply with the treaty. Russia withdrew from the treaty the next day.

Findings from a February 2019 Chicago Council on Global Affairs general public survey and a December 2018 Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) survey of International Relations (IR) scholars around the world illustrate how these different populations perceive the collapse of the INF Treaty.



| By Craig Kafura

Expert Panel Survey: US Focus on the Denuclearization of North Korea

Despite expectations for the meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, their recent summit in Hanoi ended with no agreement toward denuclearization. With that in mind, we asked our panel of foreign policy experts whether the United States should continue to focus primarily on denuclearization, or shift to arms control and non-proliferation.



| By Dina Smeltz

Opinion Landscape Not Ideal for New Mideast Peace Plan

At a Middle East conference this month in Warsaw, Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and Mideast adviser, said that the administration will unveil its much-vaunted Middle East peace plan after the April 9 Israeli elections.


| By Karl Friedhoff

America the Dangerous

The Trump administration has taken a hard line on China, but has failed to convince the American public or many allies to follow suit. Instead, publics around the world now see the United States as a major threat.