The End of an Alliance: A Historical Analysis of ROK-ROC Diplomatic Relations, 1972-92

Publication Date

April 2017


Joan Cho


College of East Asian Studies


English (United States)


This study investigates why South Korea (ROK) held on to its diplomatic alliance with Taiwan (ROC) from 1972 to 1992. The rise of China (PRC) as a regional superpower, Taiwan’s expulsion from the United Nations in 1971, and the Shanghai Communiqué in 1972 prompted almost all major countries around the world to derecognize Taiwan’s diplomatic status in the 1970s. However, South Korea remained Taiwan’s diplomatic ally until the early 1990s. Past literature mainly consults Waltzian realism to evaluate ROK-ROC alliance, but it often fails to answer how and why the alliance managed to survive throughout the 1970s and the 1980s. This study therefore performs a historical analysis using the two-level game and path dependency frameworks to discuss historical, political, domestic, and international factors that have influenced the course of ROK-ROC relations. It concludes that the persistent imbalance between South Korea’s ideational rationale for anti-communist legitimacy and practical rationale for ROK-PRC normalization explains the counterintuitive survival of ROK-ROC alliance from 1972 to 1992.

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