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  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: The Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI), with the generous support of the Korea Foundation, organized six “Vision Group” roundtable conversations with leading American scholars and commentators to discuss the United States’ relationship with the Republic of Korea. The first was held in December 2019, the last in November 2020. The intent was to consider the future of relations during a time of change. The Vision Group comprised a wide range of expertise and opinion. This record conveys some of the insights and recommendations that arose during the conversations.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Foreign Policy, Economics, Human Rights
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea, United States of America
  • Author: Sanghoon Kim
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Pacific Forum
  • Abstract: North Korea’s foreign policy decision-making procedure is highly centralized to a single leader or, at most, a few political/military elites. While democratic governments are restrained both horizontally and vertically, authoritarian regimes are relatively free of constraints from the public. This paper examines the motivations behind North Korea’s nuclear weapons development in light of the rational deterrence model, then discusses the strategic implications of a rational, or irrational, North Korea. It concludes that North Korea’s decision to develop nuclear weapons was rationally motivated by the deteriorating security environment surrounding the state, but that this will not guarantee deterrence.
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons, Authoritarianism, Deterrence, Denuclearization, Rationality
  • Political Geography: South Korea, North Korea, Korean Peninsula
  • Author: Torrey Froscher
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Nonproliferation Policy Education Center
  • Abstract: The North Korean nuclear program has been a major intelligence and policy challenge for more than 30 years. Former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry described the problem as “perhaps the most unsuccessful exercise of diplomacy in our country’s history.”1 Donald Gregg, who was CIA station chief in Seoul as well as US ambassador to South Korea, called North Korea the “longest running intelligence failure in the history of American espionage.”2 To be fair, Gregg was referring specifically to a lack of success in recruiting human sources—not necessarily errors in specific or overall assessments. Nonetheless, his comment underscores the difficulty of figuring out what North Korea is up to. In 2005, the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), which was convened to investigate the failed 2002 national intelligence estimate on Iraqi WMD capabilities, indicated that we know “disturbingly little about the weapons programs and even less about the intentions of many of our most dangerous adversaries,”3 presumably including North Korea. Today we know a lot more about North Korea’s nuclear program— but mostly it is what they want us to know. Pyongyang has conducted six nuclear tests. We know that North Korea has nuclear weapons, a significant fissile material production capacity, and an ambitious nuclear and missile development effort. These programs are completely unconstrained. The United States has tried many approaches to deal with the problem over the years, and intelligence has played a key role in support. Are there lessons to be learned from this experience? Obviously, it’s a very big question and I will sketch out just a few thoughts, mostly from an intelligence perspective: What we knew and when and how we thought about the problem. North Korea was one of many issues I worked on as an analyst and manager in CIA until my retirement in 2006. The views that follow are my own, of course, and the specific information is drawn from the extensive public literature on the issue, as well as declassified intelligence documents.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Intelligence, Nuclear Weapons, History
  • Political Geography: Asia, North Korea, United States of America
  • Author: Henry Sokolski
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Nonproliferation Policy Education Center
  • Abstract: In the next decade, it is all too likely that the past success of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in preventing the further spread of nuclear weapons among the world’s nations will be reversed. Three trends make more proliferation likely. First is the decay of nuclear taboos. Second, and arguably worse, is renewed vertical proliferation—the increase in size and sophistication of nuclear arsenals by states that already have them. Third, the technical information to fuel nuclear breakouts and ramp-ups is more available now than in the past. These trends toward increased proliferation are not yet facts. The author describes three steps the international community could take to save the NPT: making further withdrawals from the NPT unattractive; clamping down on the uneconomical stockpiling and civilian use of nuclear weapons materials (plutonium and highly enriched uranium); and giving real meaning to efforts to limit the threats that existing nuclear weapons pose.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, Nuclear Power, Disarmament, Nonproliferation
  • Political Geography: Russia, North Korea, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Daniel Wertz
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: North Korea’s tumultuous path over the past few years from nuclear standoff to summit diplomacy put a spotlight on Pyongyang’s bilateral relations across the Indo-Pacific. The February 2017 assassination of Kim Jong Un’s exiled half-brother at the Kuala Lumpur airport dramatized the malign aspects of North Korea’s overseas presence, and presaged Southeast Asia’s role as an important front in the incipient U.S.-led maximum pressure campaign against Pyongyang. As maximum pressure transitioned to engagement with North Korea, U.S.-DPRK summits in Singapore and Vietnam raised hopes that North Korea could follow the examples of these host nations, and move forward on a more hopeful path toward economic development and reconciliation with old adversaries.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Sanctions
  • Political Geography: Asia, North Korea, Pyongyang
  • Author: Antoine Bondaz
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
  • Abstract: The North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile crisis is the most serious proliferation crisis the European Union (EU) and its member states currently face on the world stage. Despite the staging of diplomatic meetings, the threat caused by this crisis to European interests, in terms of proliferation, instability and to prosperity, persists. It is now essential that the EU and its member states move from a strategy of critical engagement to implementing a more proactive strategy of credible commitments in four areas: political engagement, non-proliferation, the implementation of restrictive measures and engagement with the North Korean people. Such a renewed strategy should be highly coordinated, build on the many initiatives already being taken and facilitated by the appointment of an EU Special Representative on North Korea.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, European Union, Disarmament, Engagement
  • Political Geography: Europe, Asia, North Korea
  • Author: Naoko Aoki
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: After conducting a record number of missile and nuclear tests in 2016 and 2017, North Korea dramatically changed its policy approach and embarked on a diplomatic initiative in 2018. It announced a self-imposed halt on missile and nuclear tests and held summit meetings with the United States, China, and South Korea from spring of that year. Why did North Korea shift its policy approach? This paper evaluates four alternative explanations. The first is that the change was driven by North Korea’s security calculus. In other words, North Korea planned to achieve its security goals first before turning to diplomacy and successfully followed through with this plan. The second is that U.S. military threats forced North Korea to change its course. The third is that U.S.-led sanctions caused North Korea to shift its policy by increasing economic pain on the country. The fourth is that diplomatic initiatives by South Korea and others prompted North Korea to change its position. This paper examines the actions and statements of the United States, North Korea, China, South Korea, and Russia leading up to and during this period to assess these four explanations. It concludes that military threats and economic pain did not dissuade North Korea from obtaining what it considered an adequate level of nuclear deterrence against the United States and that North Korea turned to diplomacy only after achieving its security goals. External pressure may have encouraged North Korea to speed up its efforts to develop the capacity to strike the United States with a nuclear-armed missile, the opposite of its intended effect. Diplomatic and economic pressure may have compelled Kim Jong Un to declare that North Korea had achieved its “state nuclear force” before conducting all the nuclear and ballistic missile tests needed to be fully confident that it could hit targets in the continental United States. These findings suggest that if a pressure campaign against North Korea is to achieve its intended impact, the United States has to more carefully consider how pressure would interact with North Korean policy priorities. Pressure should be applied only to pursue specific achievable goals and should be frequently assessed for its impact.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Nonproliferation, Deterrence
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Micheline Calmy-Rey, Marc Finaud
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Pacific Forum
  • Abstract: There is no end in sight to the North Korean nuclear problem. And yet a group of international students in Geneva, Switzerland, have sketched out the contours of a possible deal. Their work, which describes mutual concessions and when/how they should be implemented, offers each of the concerned parties some helpful ideas on how to achieve a much-needed agreement.
  • Topic: Treaties and Agreements, Nonproliferation, Denuclearization, Students
  • Political Geography: North Korea
  • Author: Liudmila Zakharova
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: The New Northern Policy, proclaimed by the South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Vladivostok in September 2017, is designed to boost economic cooperation between Russia and South Korea. However, two years after a special presidential committee was created to plan and coordinate joint economic efforts, few results have been achieved. Bilateral trade has continued to increase with limited change to its structure: Russia mostly sends its mineral resources to South Korea and receives industrial products in return. New ROK investment in the Russian Far East has yet to occur, despite South Korea’s efforts to assist its businesses in finding profitable Russian projects. Seoul tried to convince Moscow that concluding a free trade agreement in the near future is necessary for intensified cooperation, but Russia prefers a more gradual approach to trade liberalization. InterKorean rapprochement in 2018 laid a foundation for further progress in the implementation of multilateral economic projects involving Russia if the international sanctions against North Korea were to be eased. Therefore, bilateral relations between Russia and the ROK can also be viewed from the perspective of promoting regional cooperation with North Korean participation.
  • Topic: International Relations, Economics, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Russia, Asia, South Korea, North Korea, Korea
  • Author: Théo Clément
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: While North Korea has developed Special Economic Zones for several decades now, these zones have attracted little attention from foreign investors, due to a mix of lack of economic reforms in the DPRK, the tense geopolitical situation, and China’s peculiar economic engagement towards North Korea. With the denuclearization process and North-South dialogue moving forward, this situation could change as South Korea’s announced policy of economic engagement with the North could provide Pyongyang the opportunity to play Beijing against Seoul to maximize its interests and attract foreign investment in Special Economic Zones from partners keen to maintain close ties with the DPRK.
  • Topic: Economics, Bilateral Relations, Investment, Trade, Denuclearization
  • Political Geography: Asia, South Korea, North Korea, Korea