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  • Author: Henry D. Sokolski
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Nonproliferation Policy Education Center
  • Abstract: With a new Democratic administration, Washington is almost certain to moderate its demands that Japan and South Korea pay more for American forces on their soil. This should ease tensions with Seoul to Tokyo. To strengthen security relations with Japan and South Korea, though, more will be required. Rather than simply increase their conventional military deployments, Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo will need to collaborate in new ways to enhance allied security. This will entail working more closely on new military frontiers, such as enhancing allied command of outer and cyber space as well as in underwater warfare. Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo will also want to carve out new functional areas of cooperation to make existing energy sources more secure, communications more reliable, data sharing easier and safer, and allied economic assistance to developing nations in strategic zones more effective. Enhanced collaboration in each of these areas has begun but is not yet locked in or fully institutionalized. It should be. Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo need one another to deal with China and North Korea. Yet, how each currently strategically views Beijing and Pyongyang differs. Nor is America’s preferred military approach to deterring Chinese and North Korean adventurism — by preventing Beijing and Pyongyang from projecting military strikes against their neighbors — all that easy to achieve. Adding new, more tractable items to America’s Asian security alliance agenda won’t immediately eliminate these misalignments. But it will strengthen the security ties they have as liberal democracies — bonds Beijing and Pyongyang are straining to fray.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Nuclear Weapons, Science and Technology, International Security, Military Affairs, Cyberspace, Nuclear Energy
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, South Korea
  • Author: Kristine Lee, Joshua Fitt, Coby Goldberg
  • Publication Date: 11-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center for a New American Security
  • Abstract: The U.S.–South Korea alliance is a primary deterrent to the threat North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal poses. But the alliance’s nearly singular functional focus on managing the North Korea threat, despite South Korea’s broadly integral role in advancing a rules-based order in the region, has introduced volatility in the bilateral relationship. Washington’s halting and inconsistent approach to Pyongyang and its failure to reach a timely agreement on its military cost-sharing framework with Seoul have nudged the alliance toward a new inflection point. Beyond the North Korea challenge, South Korea has the potential to play a consequential role in advancing the United States’ broader vision for a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific. As Seoul adopts globally oriented policies, buoyed by its position at the leading edge of certain technology areas and its successful COVID-19 pandemic response, the United States should parlay these efforts into a more concrete role for South Korea as a partner on the world stage. Collaborating on global public health issues, combating climate change, and jointly developing norms around critical emerging technologies would position the alliance to meet the challenges of the 21st century. By widening the aperture of the alliance and positioning Seoul to play an integral role in the United States’ vision for the future of the Indo-Pacific, the two allies will be better equipped to address enduring geopolitical risks in Northeast Asia, including those associated with a nuclear-armed North Korea.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Nuclear Weapons, Alliance, Modernization
  • Political Geography: Asia, South Korea, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Van Jackson
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center for a New American Security
  • Abstract: For the foreseeable future, America’s Northeast Asian allies Japan and South Korea must live in the shadow of a nuclear North Korea, whose capabilities they cannot match. During the Obama and Trump administrations, North Korea dramatically expanded and improved its ability to hold Japanese, South Korean, and even U.S. territory at risk with its nuclear and missile arsenal.1 Despite high-profile summitry and promises to the contrary, there is no sign that this imbalance will be rectified, and its continuation exacerbates regional risks and ally insecurity.2 The mounting North Korea threat is compounded by poor timing—U.S. policy has proven exceptionally erratic, unreliable, and risk-prone in recent years. The very existence of Japan and South Korea depends on strategies built around a partnership with the United States that has become shaky, and on faith in the competence of U.S. statecraft—which both countries are starting to perceive as a risk rather than a source of security. Ally perceptions of U.S. strategic incompetence generate real costs and risks for the United States and Northeast Asian security. If the United States continues to squander its deepest relationships in Asia, the allies could become rivals with each other, increase risks of nuclear instability, play a spoiler role in U.S. regional strategy, withhold basing and access rights to U.S. forces operating in the region, and potentially take independent aggressive actions against North Korea that unintentionally escalate to war.
  • Topic: Security, Nuclear Weapons, Alliance
  • Political Geography: Japan, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • 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: Victor D. Cha
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: There were high expectations at the second meeting of American and North Korean leaders in Vietnam last month after the absence of progress on denuclearization commitments made at the first summit in Singapore last summer. Yet at Hanoi, not only were the two leaders unable to deliver an agreement with tangible steps on denuclearization, but they also dispensed with the joint statement signing, cancelled the ceremonial lunch and skipped the joint press conference. In a solo presser, President Donald Trump said that sometimes you “have to walk, and this was just one of those times.”[2] The President indeed may have avoided getting entrapped into a bad deal at Hanoi. What North Korea put on the table in terms of the Yongbyon nuclear complex addresses a fraction of its growing nuclear program that does not even break the surface of its underlying arsenal and stockpiles of fissile materials, not to mention missile bases and delivery systems. And what North Korea sought in return, in terms of major sanctions relief on five UN Security Council resolutions that target 90 percent of North Korea’s trade, would have removed one of the primary sources of leverage, albeit imperfect, on the regime. In this instance, no deal was better than a bad deal for the United States. Nevertheless, the Hanoi summit has left the United States with no clear diplomatic road ahead on this challenging security problem, a trail of puzzled allies in Asia and the promise of no more made-for-television summit meetings for the foreseeable future. The question remains, where do we go from here? When leaders’ summits fail to reach agreement, diplomacy by definition has reached the end of its rope. President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put on the best face they could in Hanoi, talking about closer understanding and continued good relations between the two sides as a result of the meetings, but the failed summit leaves a great deal of uncertainty going forward. South Koreans will frantically seek meetings with Washington and Pyongyang to pick up the pieces. The North Koreans already have sent an envoy to China to chart next steps. While I do not think this will mean a return to the “Fire and Fury” days of 2017 when armed conflict was possible, we have learned numerous lessons from Hanoi for going forward.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Deterrence, Denuclearization
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: This is the second in the Senior Study Group (SSG) series of USIP reports examining China’s influence on conflicts around the world. A group of fifteen experts met from September to December 2018 to assess China’s interests and influence in bringing about a durable settlement of the North Korean nuclear crisis. This report provides recommendations for the United States to assume a more effective role in shaping the future of North Korea in light of China’s role and interests. Unless otherwise sourced, all observations and conclusions are those of SSG members.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Nuclear Weapons, Conflict, Negotiation, Peace
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: G. Ivashentsov
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Affairs: A Russian Journal of World Politics, Diplomacy and International Relations
  • Institution: East View Information Services
  • Abstract: TENSION around the Korean Peninsula is one of the main threats to international security. North Korea’s acquisition of nuclear and missile weapon systems has become a new serious factor in global strategic sta- bility. Previously, during the cold war era, the only tool of control over strategic weapons was the relationship between Moscow and Washington. At present, the international situation has radically changed. New nuclear powers – India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea – regard- less of whether or not the original five members of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) acknowledge them as such, are not under the control of either Washington or Moscow or Beijing: they act at their own discretion, as they see fit. The current polycentrism of nuclear proliferation is based on region- al rivalry. India has created its nuclear arsenal as a counterweight to China; Pakistan, as a counterweight to India; and Israel, as a shield against Arab states. None of these states, however, are seeking global supremacy and so their nuclear status is taken by the world community more or less in stride.
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Nuclear Power, Missile Defense
  • Political Geography: Asia, South Korea, North Korea, Korean Peninsula
  • Author: George Hutchinson
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: International Journal of Korean Studies
  • Institution: International Council on Korean Studies
  • Abstract: U.S. administrations have opted to negotiate with North Korea in an attempt to curb its nuclear ambitions. Rather than producing their intended effect, past negotiations have inadvertently served as a vehicle for North Korea to methodically achieve its nuclear objectives. This paper presents evidence of North Korea’s decades-old drive to maneuver through negotiations while also advancing its nuclear development, including its resistance to sign the IAEA safeguards agreement and its subsequent demands under the Agreed Framework which allowed Pyongyang to advance the clandestine portions of its nuclear program. The paper also explains, more specifically, how North Korea has used the negotiating process with the U.S. to achieve its objectives. Nuclear negotiations have followed a repeating cycle, with North Korea: (1) getting to the negotiating table; (2) agreeing to a freeze under a system of verification; (3) obstructing the verification process intended to monitor the freeze and then (4) blaming the U.S. for the ultimate collapse of the agreement while continuing to advance its weapons program. Finally, the paper uses the ‘repeating cycle’ framework above to assess events that have occurred during the Trump administration in order to predict probable future outcomes.
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, War, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Asia, South Korea, North Korea, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Henry Sokolski
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Nonproliferation Policy Education Center
  • Abstract: This report is the culmination of a two-year project sponsored by the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, which engaged more than 50 senior, retired and serving policymakers, intelligence officers, and top academic national security analysts. Its findings are based on hours of group discussions and private conversations that helped develop new primary histories of eight nuclear proliferation cases: India, Pakistan, Israel, Taiwan, South Korea, Libya, and an Argentine and a separate South African nuclear rocket case. Each history was prepared by an academic historian and was based on open sources. Former officials who had direct roles in these cases then critiqued these accounts. Additional private interviews were conducted with participants to fill in historical gaps. The purpose of the case studies was to identify when and how intelligence shaped or prompted nonproliferation policy actions and, if it did not, why. This set of historical conclusions prompted a more general discussion of how policy and intelligence officials might improve their collaboration to prevent and curb further nuclear proliferation and how academics might contribute by enhancing their treatment of such issues. The project addressed three broad, related questions: How can the role of intelligencein the making of nonproliferation policy be improved? How can the nonproliferation agenda get the priority it deserves? How can the nonproliferation community be sustained and strengthened?
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Intelligence, Nuclear Weapons, History, Nuclear Power, Nonproliferation
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Africa, South Asia, Middle East, India, Israel, Taiwan, Asia, South Korea, Libya, South Africa, Argentina, South America, North Africa
  • 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