Severokorejské jaderné zbraně

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Moje analýza severokorejského jaderného zbrojení a reakce USA s využitím strategic choice approach.

North Korean Nuclear Weapons

IRCO 410 ~ International Politics and Security

That the U.S., even at its most powerful during the post-Cold War “unipolar moment,” was not able to resolve the issue of development of nuclear weapons by North Korea (NK / DPRK), an impoverished Stalinist sanctuary, although it has been trying to do so for 15 years now, presents one of the fascinating puzzles of international politics. It has led to an enormous amount of publications either criticizing the policies used, proposing alternative ones, or both. Given that one of the basic rules of studying politics, be it national or international, is not to take leaders’ stated goals at face value, but to try to uncover their incentives and other plausible reasons for their actions, it is surprising that analysts and commentators of all sorts still take the stated U.S. goal of denuclearization of DPRK for granted. I will argue in this paper that the reason the situation remains unresolved is because it is actually an outcome preferred by the U.S.

I will start my analysis with the military capabilities and information that the two adversaries have. U.S. has immense military (and power projection) capabilities including almost 10 000 nuclear warheads, 11 carrier groups, and over 700 military bases worldwide that allow it to dominate the planet. DPRK has mediocre military capabilities, and no way of projecting power outside its territory, apart from its artillery shelling south of the DMZ, area that includes Seoul (home to almost 50% of SK population) and numerous U.S. military bases.

U.S. can win a war with NK, and it is certain about this outcome. Due to this info, it is also certain NK will not attack it. NK knows it will certainly loose war with the U.S., and therefore, will not attack it or its allies, but is uncertain whether it will be attacked and vanquished by the U.S. Note that the outcome of war doesn’t mean it is costless, indeed later in the paper we will see just how costly U.S. thought it would be. Due to the imbalance in capabilities, U.S. credibly committing itself to not attack DPRK at some time in the future is unsurprisingly one of the NK’s main demands.

NK leadership is one player in the crisis, and it is maximizing staying in power. It was faced with unprecedented crisis in the early 1990s as the Soviet bloc disintegrated and former trade partners turned to West and South Korea (SK) and ceased providing aid and subsidies energy. NK economy went into freefall while its superpower sponsor and protector disappeared, leaving NK with little resources but facing the modern U.S. and SK armies on its border. Moreover, there was the US nuclear weapons advantage, and U.S. has consistently threatened in to use nuclear weapons in NE Asia since the 1940s (Cumings 2003: 15, McCormack 2007b). NK’s strategic choice was one between position of weakness that would only get worse, or developing nuclear weapons that would provide deterrent against U.S. that is more effective and cheaper than conventional forces, and advances NK’s bargaining position in future as well. It chose the second option.

On the U.S. side, the player is the executive, the successive administrations from Clinton in 1993 to Bush since 2001 to Obama now. In 1993, as it became known that NK is working on acquiring nukes, Clinton faced the choice between war and negotiations. War was considered to be extremely costly, the U.S. commander in Korea estimated U.S. causalities to reach 80 – 100 000 dead, with SK military deaths in hundreds of thousands (Cumings 2003:72). Clinton therefore chose negotiations, and a deal was reached to freeze NK’s nuclear program in exchange for fuel oil, civilian nuclear reactors, and security guarantees. Although U.S. promised to give DPRK ‘formal assurances’ that it would not threaten it with nuclear weapons, such assurances were never provided, and moreover, the United States was slow to implement its commitments leading to a great and increasing frustration in the NK (Carpenter 2004: 49, 50; Cumings 2003: 81-2, 87). NK thus decided to defect from the agreement, and secretly pursue HEU nuclear weapons program.

In 2002 this became known to U.S., and U.S. did surprisingly effectively nothing. It refused to negotiate with NK seriously until 2005, and then scuttled the 2005 deal almost immediately and launched financial sanctions (McCormack 2006, 2007b). Even the “landmark” deal reached in February 2007 got quickly mired in the by now usual disagreements about details. If U.S. / Bush’s goal was denuclearization as stated, wouldn’t it have incentives to offer NK a better deal to reach it? A look at Bush’s domestic constituencies, neocons and ballistic missile defense (BMD) lobby, suggests that there were other preferences that U.S. was maximizing.

First are the neocons, who aim for containment of China, and to achieve this want to keep troops in Japan and SK and militarize Japan. Neocons have argued for containing China since 1997, and have pursued this policy since Bush got to power (Chollet and Goldgeier 2008: 175, Klare 2006). The problem they faced was how to legitimize the massive presence of U.S. soldiers in Japan and SK (over 93 000 in 1990, down to 66 000 in 2005) in the face of disappearing threats, given that explicitly stating the mission as containing China was a non option, to the citizens of the two nations and their politicians. U.S. was facing intensifying anti-Americanism and calls for withdrawal of the troops in democratizing Korea (especially since Kim Daejung initiated sunshine policy) and increasingly vocal protests of Okinawans in Japan. Neocons also want a militarized Japan closely allied to U.S., and the propensity of Japanese for pacifism was hindering this. Second, the ballistic missile defense (BMD) lobby, personified by Frank Gaffney, and consisting of assorted Republicans and defense contractors eager to develop missile defense to ensure American hegemony for all, endless profits for some, and as a stepping stone for space based weapons.

For these 3 goals (US presence in East Asia, militarization of Japan, and continuing development
of BMD) the boogeyman of nuclear armed NK is crucial. Scaring population into supporting containment of U.S. geopolitical competitors and the defense spending this requires is a kind of tradition in the U.S. (e.g. bomber gap and missile gap during the Cold War), only this time it is aimed partially at non-US citizens as well. DPRK that pursuing nuclear weapons or is nuclear armed, and seen as irrational and aggressive is the best advertisement for (and assurance of) continuing U.S. troop presence in East Asia. U.S. reaching a deal with NK, and carrying out its obligations, could result in a (partly) denuclearized, less threatening NK, and deprive U.S. of the legitimization of its troops in East Asia, endanger ongoing militarization of Japan, and strip half of the rationale from developing the BMD. It is in the interest of these groups to avoid, delay or scuttle any deal with NK, while keeping the regime intact and seemingly threatening. And that is indeed what we have seen throughout the Bush period. In fact, during the 1996 – 2004 period, US supplied over $1.1 billion worth of aid to NK ($433 million, or 39% of that, under Bush), and gave more food aid to NK than China (CRS 2005: 2, 17), thus helping to keep the Pyongyang regime afloat and playing its boogeyman role. What we have witnessed since 2001 was not a failed policy, but a largely successful one that led to no calls for withdrawal of U.S. forces from East Asia, major changes in Japan’s security doctrine toward militarization, and rapid progress in fielding the BMD system that satisfied Bush’s key constituencies.

How do you think this crisis is likely to evolve during Obama’s first term?
DPRK will not give up its nuclear deterrent, but it is willing to freeze its nuclear program and cease proliferating nuclear and missile technology in exchange for security guarantee from US, normalization of relations including recognition of DPRK, and economic aid. In fact, this was a deal that was offered to U.S. again in October 2002, as Colin Powell admitted in April 2003 (Cumings 2003: 93). Given that U.S. knows that NK will not attack either U.S. or its allies, and unilateral U.S. military action remains prohibitively costly as in the past, it is a deal that Obama is likely to make. Obama will want to achieve an easy foreign policy success, and is not beholden to the neoconservatives and BMD lobby as Bush was. Plus, he should be able to credibly break with the policy of U.S. threats and offer NK the kind of security guarantees it requests.

How do you predict this dispute over nuclear weapons is likely to end? And why?
NK will never give up its nuclear deterrent, but it will not use or share it with terrorists unless attacked, as neither act would enhance its ruler’s, whoever it will be, chances of staying in power. On the contrary, both would be suicidal. U.S. will have to live with a nuclear NK, one way or the other. The optimistic scenario presented above will lead to NK cooperation (given the elite succession rough patch looming ahead for NK, this will be as good a deal as they can get) rather than defection, and U.S. responds in kind resulting in a virtuous circle of increasing trust and cooperation. Few nuclear weapons in their possession will make NK feel safer, while not destabilizing the regional situation if NK is cooperating and engaging with its neighbors in a meaningful way. There is a pessimistic version as well. Not much will change in that one, negotiations with engagement conditional on total denuclearization will continue indefinitely, with a faint hope of a regime collapse. Extremely costly war will not be an option in either case.

Carpenter, Ted Galen, Korean Conundrum: America's Troubled Relations with North and South Korea, 2004
Chollet, Derek and Goldgeier, James, America Between the Wars: from 11/9 to 9/11, 2008
CRS / Congressional Research Service, Foreign Assistance to North Korea, 2005
Cumings, Bruce, North Korea: Another Country, 2003
Fearon, James D., Rationalist Explanations for War, International Organization 49, 1995
Hartung, William; Berrigan, Frida; Ciarrocca, Michelle and Wingo, Jonathan, Tangled Web 2005: A Profile of the Missile Defense and Space Weapons Lobbies, World Policy Institute, 2006
Johnson, Chalmers, Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, 2006
Klare, Michael T., Containing China: The US's real objective, Asia Times online, April 20, 2006
McCormack, Gavan, Client State: Japan in the American Embrace, Verso, 2007a
McCormack, Gavan, North Korea and the Birth Pangs of a New Northeast Asian Order, The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, 2007b
McCormack, Gavan, North Korea and the US “Strategic Decision, The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, 2006
Samuels, Richard J., Securing Japan: Tokyo's Grand Strategy and the Future of East Asia, 2008
Wayne, Leslie, After High-Pressure Years, Contractors Tone Down Missile Defense Lobbying, NY Times, June 13 2000


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