Victor Cha

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Victor Cha
Victor Cha official portrait.jpg
Born1960 (age 59–60)
United States
Alma materColumbia University (BA, MIA, PhD)
Hertford College, Oxford (MA)
Political partyRepublican

Victor D. Cha (born 1960) 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[edit]

Cha's father came to U.S. from South Korea to study at Columbia University in 1954.[4][5] Cha was born in the early 1960s in the United States.[4][6]

Cha lives in Maryland with his wife and two sons.[7]


Cha received a BA in Economics from Columbia University in 1983, an MA in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from Hertford College, Oxford in 1986, an MIA from Columbia, and a PhD in Political Science from Columbia in 1994 with thesis titled Alignment despite antagonism: Japan and Korea as quasi-allies.[8]


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; Korea JoongAng Daily; 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.[9] Cha received two Outstanding Service commendations during his tenure at the White House.[10]

Cha returned to Georgetown in late 2007 after public service leave. Currently, he is the inaugural holder of the D.S. Song-Korea Foundation Chair in Asian studies[11] 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.[12]

It was reported in January 2018 that his nomination for U.S. Ambassador to South Korea was expected to be withdrawn by the Trump administration.[13] Cha had reportedly in December 2017 privately expressed disagreement with the Trump administration's consideration to launch a limited strike at North Korea and to withdraw from the trade agreement with South Korea.[13][14]


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.[15]

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.[16]

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.[17] Cha's most recent book on East Asian security was published in 2016, Powerplay: The Origins of the American Alliance System in Asia.[18]

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, the Japanese Journal of Political Science and the Washington Post.[19]

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.[20]


  • The Geneva Framework Agreement and Korea's future, East Asian Institute, Columbia University, 1995
  • Alignment Despite Antagonism: The United States-Korea-Japan Security Triangle, Stanford University Press, 2000
  • Nuclear North Korea: A Debate on Engagement Strategies, Columbia University Press, 2005
  • Beyond the Final Score: The Politics of Sport in Asia, Columbia University Press, 2008
  • The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future, Ecco/HarperCollins, 2012
  • Powerplay: The Origins of the American Alliance System in Asia, Princeton University Press, 2016


Powerplay (theory)[edit]

Powerplay: Bilateral versus Multilateral Control
Target State:
Small Power
Target State:
Great Power
Small power(s) seeking
control over target
Quadrant 1
Quadrant 2
Great power seeking control
over target
Quadrant 3
Quadrant 4
Source: Victor Cha's Powerplay: Bilateral versus Multilateral Control.[21]

"Powerplay" is a term coined by Cha in his article "Powerplay Origins of the U.S. Alliance System in Asia" to explain 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[22] instead of multilateral alliances like NATO with European countries under liberal institutionalism. To illustrate a country's preference when forming an alliance structure, Cha incorporates a figure of different possible quadrants dependent on power asymmetry between allies and the types of control one seek over the target state.[22]

Defined as "the construction of an asymmetric alliance designed to exert maximum control over the smaller ally’s actions," 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 potential "rogue allies"—that is, "rabidly anticommunist dictators who might start wars for reasons of domestic legitimacy that the United States wanted no part of as it was gearing up for a protracted global struggle against the Soviet Union."[22]

Although "[a]s a rule, multilateralism is the preferred strategy for exercising control over another country," 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”[22] 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 mainland China, and South Korea's Syngman Rhee, who wanted to unify the Korean Peninsula, 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 this type of security architecture because it offers the safest architecture to prevent aggression by East Asia's pro-West dictators and increases leverage and the states' dependency on the U.S. economy. Now the word “powerplay” is commonly used in any political or social situation when one uses its knowledge or information against another in order to gain benefit based on one's situational advantages.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Victor Cha Archived 2017-09-26 at the Wayback Machine –
  2. ^ Officials Head to Korea for GI Remains[permanent dead link] – The Ledger Independent
  3. ^ Victor D. Cha Archived 2009-02-05 at the Wayback Machine – Georgetown University
  4. ^ a b "뉴욕한인 이야기/ 유학생 최초 자영업에 성공한 차문영" [New York Korean story: Cha Mun-yeong, A student, the first successful entrepreneur] (in Korean). The Korea Times. July 14, 2011. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015.
  5. ^ "백악관 NSC 아시아담당 국장 내정 빅터 차 "韓國기대 만족시키진 못할 것"" [White House NSC Asian affairs director Victor Cha "Korean may not be able to meet expectations"] (in Korean). The Chosun Ilbo. November 19, 2004. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 14, 2015.
  6. ^ "Victor Cha's 'Motherland'". The Dong-A Ilbo. 1 February 2018. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
  7. ^ Victor D. Cha; David Chan-oong Kang (April 2005). Nuclear North Korea: A Debate on Engagement Strategies. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-13129-2. Archived from the original on 2018-02-28.
  8. ^ Victor Cha Returns to Georgetown from NSC – Georgetown University Archived 2007-12-12 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Victor Cha -- Center for Strategic and International Studies". Retrieved 2019-02-01.
  10. ^ "Victor Cha -- Center for Strategic and International Studies". Retrieved 2019-11-08.
  11. ^ "Inauguration of the D.S. Song-Korea Foundation Chair at Georgetown" Archived 2011-07-19 at the Wayback Machine, Korea Foundation website notice, n.d. Retrieved 2011-04-25.
  12. ^ Arends, Brett, "IMF bombshell: Age of America nears end" Archived 2011-04-27 at the Wayback Machine, MarketWatch, April 25, 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-25.
  13. ^ a b Nakamura, David; Gearan, Anne (2018-01-30). "Disagreement on North Korea policy derails White House choice for ambassador to South Korea". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Archived from the original on 2018-01-30. Retrieved 2018-01-30.
  14. ^ "White House abandons planned pick for South Korea ambassador". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 2018-01-31. Retrieved 2018-01-30.
  15. ^ Alignment Despite Antagonism by Dr. Victor D. Cha –
  16. ^ Nuclear North Korea - a Debate on Engagement Strategies
  17. ^ The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future – Amazon.comArchived 2017-11-26 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Powerplay: The Origins of the American Alliance System in Asia
  19. ^ "Giving North Korea a Bloody Nose Carries a Huge Risk to Americans". Washington Post. Retrieved 2019-11-15.
  20. ^ "Powerplay Origins of the U.S. Alliance System in Asia" (abstract, first page, access) Archived 2014-09-03 at the Wayback Machine, International Security via Project MUSE, Winter 2009.
  21. ^ Cha, Victor D. "Powerplay: Origins of the US alliance system in Asia." International Security 34.3 (2010): 165-166
  22. ^ a b c d Victor D. Cha “Powerplay Origins of the U.S. Alliance System in Asia”, International Security, Vol. 34, No.3, Winter 2009/10, pp. 158-196

External links[edit]