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  • 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: Naoko Aoki
  • Publication Date: 07-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: Policy-makers, scholars, and analysts disagree about whether North Korea will take any meaningful denuclearization steps after its leader Kim Jong Un met with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore in June 2018. Many believe that the breakdowns of the 1994 Agreed Framework and the Six Party Talks process in the 2000s show that North Korea’s nuclear weapons program cannot be constrained through cooperation. According to this view, Pyongyang violated its previous commitments once it received economic and political benefits, and it will do so again. The underlying assumption is that Washington was fully implementing its own commitments until Pyongyang broke the deal. But is this true? This paper discusses three key findings drawn from an analysis of U.S. implementation of past denuclearization agreements with North Korea. The first is that the United Stated did not always follow through with its cooperative commitments because of domestic political constraints, even when North Korea was fulfilling its commitments. This makes it difficult to determine whether North Korea ultimately did not honor its obligations because it never intended to or because it was responding to U.S. actions. The second is that some parts of past deals were more susceptible than others to being undercut by domestic opposition because they received insufficient political attention. The third is that such domestic interference could be minimized by obtaining the widest possible coalition of domestic support from the negotiation stage. The roadmap for North Korea’s denuclearization is unclear, as the Singapore summit did not determine concrete steps toward that goal. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Pyongyang in early July also did not yield specifics such as the scope and timeline of denuclearization. But based on the findings from past agreements, this paper argues that the only way for the United States to find out if engagement will work this time is to test North Korea’s intentions by carrying out Washington’s own cooperative commitments more consistently than in the past.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Nonproliferation, Deterrence
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea, Korea
  • Author: Jaganath Sankaran
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: The United States and Japan are jointly developing and deploying an integrated advanced regional missile defense system meant to counter threats from North Korea. North Korea possesses a large and diversified arsenal of short- and medium-range missiles that could strike Japanese cities and military bases in the event of a crisis and cause measurable damage. The missile defense system currently in place provides strong kinematic defensive coverage over Japanese territory. However, in general, the offense enjoys a strong cost advantage. It is impractical to deploy as many defensive interceptors as there are offensive missiles, which, in turn, limits the efficiency of missile defenses. It should be understood that regional missile defenses in the Asia-Pacific are neither capable nor expected to provide 100% defense. Rather, their goal is to provide sufficient capability to bolster deterrence and, should deterrence fail, to provide enough defense in the initial stages of a crisis to protect vital military assets. Additionally, U.S. and Japanese forces apparently also need to develop a better command and control architecture to operate the Asia-Pacific regional missile defense system. Finally, while the system is meant to defend only against regional threats, China has argued that the system might in the future be able to intercept Chinese ICBMs, thereby diluting its strategic deterrent against the United States. Maintaining effective defenses against North Korea while reassuring China will be one of the major challenges the U.S. and Japan face in their missile defense endeavor.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Naoko Aoki
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs have spurred Japan and South Korea to develop their own ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems and to regenerate their interest in regional missile defense cooperation with the United States. Has North Korea reacted to such developments, and if so, how? This paper looks at North Korea’s missile capacity development as well as its official proclamations and concludes that while Pyongyang likely does not believe that it is the region’s sole target for U.S. and allied BMD, it feels deeply threatened by its deployment. Existing and potential BMD systems have not discouraged Pyongyang from building its own missiles. Rather, North Korea is accelerating its efforts to improve and expand its missile arsenal to develop a survivable force, likely perceiving BMD systems as part of an overall U.S. strategy that is hostile to Pyongyang.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Regional Cooperation, Nonproliferation
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Naoko Aoki
  • Publication Date: 09-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM)
  • Abstract: In 1994, the United States and North Korea signed the Agreed Framework, in which Pyongyang promised to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for energy aid and improvement of relations with Washington. An international consortium led by the United States was created to implement the key provisions of the deal, including the delivery of two light water reactor (LWR) units. While multi-national efforts are common in commercial nuclear projects, the case of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) was unique. KEDO’s challenges ranged from the lack of diplomatic relations between its main members and North Korea, to the country’s poor infrastructure. This paper examines KEDO’s experience and concludes that cooperation among its member states—Japan, South Korea, the United States and others—helped ensure the project’s financial and political feasibility, even if work did not proceed smoothly. While the construction of the LWRs was never completed due to larger political changes, KEDO’s experience offers lessons for future nuclear projects that face similar hurdles. EXPLORE:
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Regional Cooperation, Nonproliferation, Deterrence
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea