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Potomac CEO Mark Cowan Addresses 9th Annual Asian Leadership Conference

Updated: May 19, 2023

Potomac International Partners CEO Mark Cowan spoke at the 9th Annual Asian Leadership Conference in Seoul, South Korea this past May, 2018.


International Relations seems to be an ever-present ‘hot topic’ in Washington, D.C. these days. With the Trump administration rattling the cages of foreign leaders, offering glowing praise for others, and often changing stances on issues. It’s no wonder that trying to make sense of it all is a challenging endeavor. With President Trump being the first-ever sitting U.S. President to meet with a North Korean Dictator it is important now more than ever to understand the international landscape so that professionals can navigate the business and political environment with certainty, especially in regards to the Korean Peninsula.



But the past is a powerful narrator. We have seen the history of surreptitious rhetoric, hollow promises and veiled actions that all sought to undermine the United States’ and other nations efforts for peace and a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

Enter the 9th Annual Asian Leadership Conference.

Every year the Conference brings together world-renowned thought leaders from business, politics and academia to discuss and provide answers to the pressing issues facing Asia today. With all that has been happening on the Korean Peninsula this year, in addition to the recent trade actions taken by various countries, this year’s theme is especially salient: Globalization in Crisis: Navigating the World with New Opportunities. While it brings about a feeling of unease, we are in the midst of a globalization crisis. But as the theme also suggests, this a moment with immense opportunity. Opportunities for meaningful discussions about politics, economics, human rights, and most importantly, peace.

Potomac International Partners’ CEO Mark Cowan was a panelist at the conference and shed some light on how he thinks the Trump administration is approaching relations with the Koreas, and what they should be doing.

Mark’s comments echoed the sentiments from above – the Trump administration wants to ensure that North Korea honors any agreements made with the U.S. or our allies, but acknowledges that history demands a cautious approach. Signed agreements are not always upheld. To accomplish this, the U.S. along with our partners in Seoul must maintain current sanctions and agreements until Pyongyang can prove that it is firmly invested in coming to the table for serious negotiations with real, actionable outcomes. Leading up to the summit with President Trump Mr. Cowan counseled that optimistic skepticism was the best approach. Optimistic that the parties would reach an agreement, but skeptical that they would with the myriad thorny issues that continue to drive wedges between the negotiating nations. The biggest of which is denuclearization. North Korea most likely has little intention of abandoning nuclear development. If the international community wishes to curb or stop this program, a robust ‘comprehensive, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement’ requirement must be implemented. Short-notice challenge inspections can support this goal and should be championed by all who are interested in peace on the Korean Peninsula.

In conclusion, Cowan re-asserted that caution must be the foundation of all relations. We are dealing with an unreliable actor who is determined to do what is necessary to maintain the Kim Dynasty’s grip on power – and they believe a nuclear arsenal is the best way to accomplish that. A strong verification regime backed by a group of diverse international leaders is the best path forward.

The Honorable Mark D. Cowan is CEO of Potomac International Partners and draw on over 35 years of public service. He served in the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and was on the Trump Transition Team. He has served clients in Korea, Taiwan, and the People’s Republic of China in addition to others across the globe. Potomac is a full-service government relations and public affairs firm with a specialization in foreign market entry and assisting foreign companies and governments work with the US government.


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