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  • Author: Sue Mi Terry
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Journal of Korean Studies
  • Institution: International Council on Korean Studies
  • Abstract: Pyongyang under the Kim dynasty has pursued three broad and consistent strategic goals: (1) The pursuit of nuclear weapons program in order to gain international acceptance of the North as a bona fide nuclear weapons state; (2) securing a peace treaty in an effort to remove U.S. forces from the Korean Peninsula; and, (3) reunification with South Korea on its own terms—the ultimate if increasingly unrealistic objective. To achieve these goals, the North has followed a policy of brinksmanship with the U.S. and South Korea: provoke when Washington or Seoul seem preoccupied, up the ante in the face of international condemnation, and pivot back to a peace offensive, which usually ends with some form of dialogue and negotiation, culminating, finally, in concessions for the North. This article reviews in detail how such policies have been pursued by Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, and Kim Jong-un. It shows that, while there have been changes in North Korean policy, they have been primarily tactical not strategic—the North has changed how it pursues its goals (sometimes using military forces, at other times covert actions, or even negotiations), but it has remained consistent in its objectives. Not even the regime's literal bankruptcy has convinced the regime to change course, and for good reason: such brinkmanship tactics have paid off for the North by making possible the regime's survival for more than sixty years. Kim Jong-un, accordingly, has continued this strategy. This article ends by suggesting how the U.S. and South Korea should deal with the North's militaristic foreign policy. In brief, the two allies need to break the cycle of provocation by making clear they will no longer reward North Korea's destabilizing behavior while pursuing a longer-term goal of their own.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, South Korea, North Korea, Korea, Sinai Peninsula