Victor Cha

Victor Cha

Victor D. Cha (born December 8, 1959), is an American academic, author and former national foreign policy advisor.

He is a former Director for Asian Affairs in the White House's National Security Council, with responsibility for Japan, North and South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.[1] He was George W. Bush's top advisor on North Korean affairs.[2] He currently holds the D. S. Song-Korea Foundation Chair in Asian Studies and is the Director of the Asian Studies program in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Cha is also senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).[3]

Personal life

Cha's father Cha Mun-yeong (Hangul: 차문영 ) came to U.S. from South Korea to study at Columbia University in 1954. He married Im Sun-ok (Hangul: 임순옥 ), who studied at Juilliard School.[4][5]

Cha lives with his family in Maryland. He has two sons, Patrick and Andrew.


Cha received a B.A. in Economics from Columbia University in 1983, an M.A. in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from the University of Oxford in 1986, a MIA from Columbia, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Columbia in 1994 with thesis titled Alignment despite antagonism: Japan and Korea as quasi-allies.[6]


Cha is a former John M. Olin National Security Fellow at Harvard University, two-time Fulbright Scholar, and Hoover National Fellow and Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) Fellow at Stanford University.

Before entering government, he served as an independent consultant, testified before Congress on Asian security issues, and was a guest analyst for various media including CNN, ABC's Nightline, Newshour with Jim Lehrer, CBS, Fox News, BBC, National Public Radio, New York Times, Washington Post and Time. He served on the editorial boards of several academic journals and wrote columns for CSIS Comparative Connections; Joongang Ilbo-International Herald Tribune (English Edition); Chosun Ilbo, and Japan Times.

He held the D. S. Song-Korea Foundation Chair in Asian Studies and Government in the Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service and directed the American Alliances in Asia Project at Georgetown University until 2004.

In December 2004, Cha joined the National Security Council as Director for Asian Affairs. At the NSC, he was responsible for South Korea, North Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Island nations. He also served as the U.S. Deputy Head of Delegation for the Six Party Talks. Cha received two Outstanding Service commendations during his tenure at the White House.

Cha returned to Georgetown in the fall 2007 after public service leave. Currently, he is the inaugural holder of the D.S. Song-Korea Foundation Chair in Asian studies[7] and a joint appointment with the School of Foreign Service core faculty and the Department of Government and is the Director of the Asian Studies program. He is also senior adviser at the CSIS on Asian affairs.[8]


Cha is the author of numerous articles, books, and other works on Asian security.

He authored Alignment Despite Antagonism: The US-Korea-Japan Security Triangle (1999), which received the 2000 Ohira Book Prize. The book presented a new, alternative theory regarding Japan and South Korea's political alignment despite their historical animosity. Cha wrote this in response to previous research on the subject, which he felt focused too heavily on their respective historical antagonism.[9]

In 2005, Cha co-authored Nuclear North Korea: A Debate on Engagement Strategies with Professor David Kang of Dartmouth College and its Tuck School of Business. The co-authors presented their respective viewpoints on the best way to handle the Korean situation, with Cha presenting a more "hawkish" approach and Kang presenting his more "dovish" arguments.[10]

Cha's published Beyond the Final Score: The Politics of Sport in Asia in 2009. In 2012 he published a timely book on North Korea in the wake of Kim Jong-Il's death, The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future.[11] Cha is currently planning on publishing a new work on East Asia: a monograph concerning “Origins of the Postwar American Alliance System in Asia".[6]

He has published articles on international relations and East Asia in International Security, Foreign Affairs, Survival, Political Science Quarterly, International Studies Quarterly, Orbis, Armed Forces and Society, Journal of Peace Research, Security Dialogue, Australian Journal of International Affairs, Asian Survey, Journal of East Asian Studies, Asian Perspective, and Japanese Journal of Political Science. Recent publications include "Winning Asia: An Untold American Foreign Policy Success" in the November/December 2007 issue of Foreign Affairs; "Beijing's Olympic-Sized Catch 22" in the Summer 2008 issue of the Washington Quarterly; and "Powerplay Origins of the U.S. Alliance System in Asia" in the Winter 2009/10 issue of International Security.[12]


Powerplay (theory)

"Powerplay" is a term coined by Cha in his article "Powerplay Origins of the U.S. Alliance System in Asia" in the journal "International Security," which explains the reason behind the United States’ decision of pursuing a series of bilateral alliances with East Asian countries such as Republic of Korea, the Republic of China, and Japan [13] instead of multilateral alliances like NATO with European countries under liberal institutionalism.

Defined as “the construction of an asymmetric alliance designed to exert maximum control over the smaller ally’s actions,” [13] powerplay mainly describes the relations between the U.S. and Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan like that of the hub and spokes system which aimed to contain the Soviet threat but the main rationale was to constrain "rogue allies."[13]

Although "[a]s a rule, multilateralism is the preferred strategy for exercising control over another country," [13] bilateralism was preferred in the region and was thus deliberately selected due to the asymmetric advantages of creating economic and material dependency of the smaller states on the stronger state by constraining aggressive behaviors of the former. In the post-Cold War period, the domino theory, which “held that the fall of one small country in Asia could trigger a chain of countries falling to communism”[13] was prevailing which made the U.S. perceive the costs of pursuing multilateralism high as it may entrap the U.S. into another unwanted war.

The presence of "rogue allies" was one of the costs involved in engaging in such strategy, as they had the potential to use aggressive behavior unilaterally that could have involved the U.S. in more military conflicts. The "rogue allies" which the U.S. leaders were worried about include Taiwan's Chiang Kai-shek, who was planning to take back the mainland China, and South Korea's Syngman Rhee, who was wanting to unify the Korean Peninsula and and they were also worried that Japan was recovering its regional power in Asia. With a thorough investigation on several empirical case studies of Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan during the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, Cha concludes that the postwar U.S. planners had selected such type of security architecture because it offers a safest architecture to prevent aggression by the East Asia's pro-West dictators, increases leverage and the states' dependency on the U.S. economy. Now the word “powerplay” is commonly used in the any political or social situation when one uses its knowledge or information against other in order to gain benefit using situational advantages the one has.


External links

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