You are on page 1of 8

Strommer 1

Kyle Strommer
Professor Demetris Trokkos
POSC 120-03
12/5/2013
The Modern North Korea: Weapons Development

Although it has long been a concern for experts in security, proliferation has become an
increasingly important political issue within the last decade which has been accompanied by the
nuclearization of Southern Asia. The discovery of frauds and traffics as well as the collapsing
and weakening of international regimes are some of the main contributing factors which have
surprised both analysts as well as observers. This essay is going to assess North Koreas position
and actions previously taken in regards to their goal of attaining nuclear weapons. This includes
alternative strategies for the inhibition of Pyongyangs nuclear weapons development as well as
the potential implications for regional security. The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea
actions to pursue the enhancement of their nuclear weapons capability has created various
debates among policy makers and analysts alike in regards to the failed attempts of trying to
negotiate the idea of Korean denuclearization (Sigal). The response from North Korea reflects
the belief of them being an autonomous country in an economic, political, and military sense but
it also shows their vulnerability by continuing their nuclear development in such a hermetically
sealed state.
Strommer 2

Over the years the negotiability over North Korean nuclear weapons development and
similar issues has shifted greatly. The support for accommodation and engagement has
diminished because of three past events: North Koreas participation in the construction of a
nuclear reactor in Syria; North Koreas second nuclear test of May 2009 and its avowed to
claims to status as a nuclear weapons state; the cautionary attitudes of South Korean President
Lee Myung-bak compared to his previous predecessors, whom were committed to engagement
with the North (Sanger).
In the past the efforts to stop North Koreas pursuit of nuclear weapons has been known
as one of the least successful efforts in international security and even non-proliferation in the
later part of the 20
th
Century. Earlier in 2010 Pyongyang claimed to have a very rudimentary
nuclear capability, weaponized plutonium, where they conducted two nuclear tests as well as
advancing in their production of uranium which was used as a means of fissile material
production, or reactor fuel. To justify this North Korea defended their actions with the statement
existential threats posed by the united States and they resumed their pursuit of acquiring a
nuclear deterrent. Despite their actions the DPRK insisted that there be a peace agreement
between the U.S. and North Korea before they consider the idea of denuclearization. North
Koreas involvement in this issue is a problematic one and the technological advances they are
making are only contributing even more to the overall picture. Therefore the future foreign
policy of the United States should be to centered around the mitigation of potential security risks
from North Korean behavior rather than trying to end DPRKs nuclear program early.
The denuclearization of Korea can be broken down into two essential options. The first is
focused on emphasizing economic and political inducements. By using this incentive-based
approach it will ultimately diminish the amount of value the North puts with having nuclear
Strommer 3

weapons. On the other hand there is also the approach of preventing North Korea from acquiring
nuclear weapons. A policy like this would deny the North the means to pursue any kind of
nuclear program which would eventually mitigate any potential threats caused by capabilities
they previously had.
It is these two approaches that are also the reason as to why the U.S. and other countries
have been unable to reach any kind of compromise for a policy. These two approaches come
from opposite ends of the spectrum which has always leaded to failing to achieve the goals
previously set out. Advocates for the more peaceful and cooperative policy state that countries
like the U.S. havent demonstrated enough effort to clearly show that they are committed to the
so called assurance approach which has allowed the intrusion of more forceful strategies.
Meanwhile policy makers who support the prevention approach argue that the success of such a
policy was put to a halt when the country came to diplomatic concession and compromises
allowing North Korea to maintain its pursuit of nuclear weapons development. As a result the
Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea has been able to maintain their technology and even
collaborate with other states that are also looking to develop their own weapons potential and
advanced missile capabilities, otherwise known as proliferation.
The history of such an unsuccessful denuclearization has created both frustration as well
as wariness about the continuation of previous engagement strategies with North Korea.
Nonetheless, there are two questions that continue to persist. The first is are there any conditions
under which North Korean Leadership is willing to negotiate the possibility of a non-nuclear
future as well as dismantling their nuclear capabilities? The second is what are the alternatives
for a policy if there is no realistic possibility of coming to an agreement with the DPRK on
stopping their pursuit of nuclear weapons development?
Strommer 4

Bearing these two questions in mind there are multiple factors at stake in North Koreas
continued pursuit of nuclear weapons. The first is the potential implications of a more
nuclearized security environment for international security and overall defense planning in
Eastern Asia. Another factor includes the possible transfer by Pyongyang of nuclear materials
and technology to third parties. Policy makers cant forget about the risks of internal instability
in North Korea if they are to retain their possession of nuclear weapons. The last major factor to
take into consideration is the dangers of a breakdown on the Korean peninsula which could
trigger a regional crisis (Wit). These four issues represent the major core concerns of the U.S.
but they are not issues that stand for only the United States.
Before moving on, it is important to understand the Democratic Peoples Republic of
Korea attachment to their nuclear weapons. Their safety with nuclear weapons is uncertain but
he would be even less safe if they were to give up their nuclear capabilities. Without any nuclear
weapons it makes it much easier to topple a regime such as North Korea compared to if they did
have nuclear weapons. Simply conceding to denuclearization would be throwing away all the
hard work North Korea has put forth just to remain in the state that they are today.
Contributing to this even more is the fact that in the past the United States had issues with
toppling the Syrian regime because of the risk involved with their chemical weapons and the
possibility that they could fall into the hands of rebels in Syria. Seeing this it makes sense to
North Korea to maintain control over their nuclear weapons because they would have no
leverage at all without them. These are the main reasons as to why North Korea is so stubborn
with their decision on this topic and why it is making everything very difficult to deal with.
Strommer 5

The denuclearization of Korea remains a fundamental U.S. goal but it needs a strategy
that takes into account the full range of possibilities (long-term) in Korea, which includes the
variables that are associated with North Korea both economically and politically in the future. It
is important to remember that without its nuclear breakthroughs, the DPRK is far less cohesive
that when it was before the death of Kim II Sung. Therefore all countries and powers that are
going to be involved with any related issues are going to approach uncharted areas and should be
prepared for anything to occur.
At this time it can be seen in the U.S. Government Administration that attitudes are ones
of being very cautionary rather than reckless. It is clear the United States understands that there
is the possibility of an open ended impasse with Pyongyang. However, the longer the Democratic
Peoples Republic of Korea retains the ability of enhance its nuclear capabilities and keeps
restating the fact that they are a armed nuclear state, the more difficult it will become for the
regime to let go of its inventory and potential weapons.
Now that the importance and stakes of the United States in this issue have been states the
policy recommendations of this essay are as follows: as long as Pyongyang remains in
possession of nuclear weapons then the United States should not maintain any kind of normal
relationship with the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. By following such a policy it will
deny North Korea the possibility of sustaining any kind of relations with the outside world,
assuming that such ties are desired. It is clear the North Koreas nuclear capabilities do exist and
the United States needs to manage the potential risks and put forth its best efforts to halt any kind
of additional nuclear advances. If anything this will limit the DPRKs weapons potential which
will then deny any kind of political or other strategic standing it had from its nuclear activities.
Strommer 6

If North Korea chooses not to take part in any kind of compromise in regards to
denuclearization then all the United States can do is reiterate what kinds of benefits could be
gained if North Korea were to discontinue their pursuit of advancing their nuclear weapons
capabilities. It must be made clear that the United States is only going take part in any kind of
compromise so long as it is North Korea who is making the changes as a country and not the
United States. If the United States were to take a more cooperative approach, like the one stated
earlier, where we as a nation would be making changes as well to accompany a compromise with
North Korea it would only go to show how even a nation such as the DPRK has the ability to
manipulate the United States to achieve whatever goal they originally wanted to. Such an action
done by the United States would create a bad image globally especially in the presence of newer
rising powers such as China. Additionally, North Korea is a country that doesnt hold nearly as
much value as one like Iran (oil) which should make clear that the United States shouldnt have
to go through so much work just for the needy Democratic Peoples Republic of North Korea.
To conclude, the United States Foreign Policy must have two requirements. First, there
must be clear communication and actions that are consistent with the intent on inhibiting any
kind of nuclear development within the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea. Such a
requirement will help remove any kind of space people can move into if they are not fully
committed to the policy. Second, the United States must ensure that any steps toward
denuclearization are verifiable and irreversible so that North Korea cant go back on their word.
By having such requirements the policy will help create a solution that will last. It will limit the
risks of a larger crisis and reduce the possibilities of a much more open nuclear development in
the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea.
Strommer 7

After taking consideration all the main points of this essay the United States needs to take
a course of action in future Foreign Policy that is similar to the solution provided. Failing to do
so will only result in an ending that has been the same over past years.





















Strommer 8

Works Cited


Michael Krepon, Numerology in the Second Nuclear Age, Proliferation Papers, No. 30, Fall
2009.


David E. Sanger, Israel Struck Syrian Nuclear Project, Analysts Say, The New York Times, 14
October 2007; David Albright and Paul Brannan, The Al Kibar Reactor: Extraordinary
Camouflage, Troubling Implication, Washington, Institute for Science and International
Security, 12 May 2008, available at : www.isis.org .


Leon V. Sigal, Disarming Strangers: Nuclear Diplomacy with North Korea, Princeton, Princeton
University Press, 1998.


Wit, U.S. Strategy Towards North Korea, op. cit., p. 5.