In a June 2000 paper entitled "North Korea's Strategy" Stephen Bradner explains why North Korea develops missiles and weapons of mass destruction.
The Pyongyang regime appears to consider its WMD and long-range missiles as fundamental to survival and too important to give up. Four points would seem to be clear.
First, these capabilities enable the regime to bargain and blackmail for what it needs rather than having to beg.
Second, while WMD and missile programs are important in this regard, it would be a mistake to imagine that is all they are, and to underestimate the importance attached to the programs per se and the regime's determination to pursue them. Such programs do not spring into existence overnight. Recruitment of nuclear specialists began in the 1950s. North Korea began assigning specialists to Yongbyon in the 1960s.26 All of this occurred long before North Korea had cause to anticipate economic failure or the need for a negotiating "card" to cope with the consequences of such failure.
Third, WMD and long-range missiles appear integral to Kim Jong Il's notion of making North Korea a "great and powerful state." Simply, he thinks great powers have such capabilities while weak states do not. In this respect, he will almost certainly consider these capabilities central to his own historic mission and, therefore to his notion of his own identity. He and his regime have always been bent on achieving these capabilities. It will hardly be easy to force them to "revert" to a posture that strips them of these capabilities, a posture that has never been theirs.
Fourth, these capabilities should be seen against the background of what has been happening all across Asia, from Syria and Israel, to the subcontinent, to China, and to North Korea itself, as second- and third-tier states develop asymmetric counters to western conventional military superiority. All of this is cogently captured in Paul Bracken's Fire in the East, in which he argues that as we transition not into the post-cold war era but into the post-Vasco da Gama era, Asian states are for the first time in five hundred years developing capabilities that will enable them to strike back at western states which try to impose their will by state-of-the-art military technology.27 These new capabilities will enable North Korea, among others, to hit our bases in the Pacific and, ultimately to strike at the homeland, raising the costs and hazards of our interference to dictate outcomes of our choosing far from home. As Bracken points out, Asian states are pursuing these new weapons, especially enhanced missile range and accuracy, not just to create random mass destruction, but rather to exert leverage, by force and threats of force, toward specific political objectives. If one asks what Pyongyang's specific political objective is vis-à-vis the U.S., the answer is not long in coming. They have been telling us week in and week out for decades about the need to get USFK off the Korean peninsula.
North Korea's WMD development effort is not a recent response to its economic problems. North Korea's deteriorating economic condition and South Korea's growing economy together strengthen the motive for the North Korean regime to do WMD develpment. But the regime already had compelling reasons to do so.
Containment is not a viable long-term option for the US strategy toward North Korea because North Korean missile and WMD development programs will only make it an increasing threat both from a growing potential to launch direct WMD attacks on the US and its allies and also thru its ability to sell WMD technologies and even actual weapons to other governments.
US attempts to organize a total cut-off of aid to the North Korean regime may fail because China may be willing to continue to prop it up. If sufficient economic pressure can not be brought to bear due to Chinese reluctance then an alternative strategy becomes urgent. The best strategy is to develop ways to get information about the outside world into the hands of the North Korean people. The pursuit of this strategy should be pursued with enormous vigor. Methods should be developed to smuggle large quantities of books and small radios into North Korea. It is essential to break the isolation of the North Korean people.
Update: If you want to read more about the problem of North Korea read my Axis of Evil category archive.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2003 February 21 02:13 AM US Foreign Preemption, Deterrence, Containment|