Vestiges of hardcore Communism assessment

United States Persuade North Korea to Disarm Its Nuclear Capability?

Today, North Korea represents one of the last vestiges of hard-core Communism left on the face of the earth, and the so-called “Hermit Kingdom’s” current ruler, Kim Jong Il, is fully committed to a policy of brinksmanship in which the international community is threatened on a regular basis in order to exact further economic and political concessions. Although North Korea has represented an ongoing major threat to stability on the Korean Peninsula since the cessation of hostilities following the armistice ending the Korean Conflict in 1953, the country’s ability to cause trouble for its southern neighbor, South Korea, Japan and the world at large has been amplified in major ways by its development of nuclear weapons in recent years. Complicating efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement to North Korea’s continuing nuclear development is the highly secretive nature of the reclusive North Korean society in general and its political and military leadership in particular. The Hermit Kingdom remains a fuse that is ready to be lit by what it perceives to be undue provocations. Indeed, Kim Jong Il has clearly stated that further sanctions by the United Nations would be regarded as a declaration of war and North Korea fields the world’s third-largest conventional army, not to mention its growing nuclear capability, and can back up its hyperbolic rhetoric with fierce military action, at least in the short-term. The six-party talks that have sought to defuse this precarious situation have failed in their entirety to remedy the problem and policymakers at home and abroad are shaking their heads in collective disbelief as North Korea continues to test bigger and better missiles, some of possess the ability to carry nuclear warheads as far as Hawaii (Barry 2007). Clearly, something different needs to be done and this represents the focus of the study proposed herein which is discussed further below.

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Research Questions

The proposed study will be guided by the following general research questions:

1. What is the current state of affairs concerning North Korea’s nuclear capability?

2. What diplomatic initiatives, if any, have proven effective in negotiating with North Korea in the past?

3. Will a change in North Korea’s leadership likely result in a relaxation of negotiations in the future?

4. Failing diplomatic solutions, is a pre-emptive strike by the United States and its allies against North Korea’s nuclear facilities out of the question?

Based on the findings to the foregoing general research questions, the specific research question to be addressed by the proposed study is whether the United States can persuade North Korea to disarm its nuclear capability, and if so, how?

Background and Context

The United States has a staunch ally in South Korea and American businesses are heavily invested in the country’s infrastructure (Rugman & Brewer 2001). Moreover, the United States maintains a significant military presence in South Korea in the form of the Eighth U.S. Army which comprises the bulk of the United Nations’ military forces that have been assigned to the region since the end of the Korea Conflict (Catchpole 1998; Shuja 2002). In addition, North Korea’s growing nuclear capability include missiles that apparently possess the capability to deliver warheads to Hawaii, and it is reputed to be exporting nuclear technology to other pariah states that could be used to attack the United States and its interests abroad (Auton 2007).

Statement of Purpose

The purpose of the proposed study is to deliver a comprehensive and critical review of the peer-reviewed, scholarly and governmental literature concerning North Korea in general and its nuclear capability in particular to determine if political and diplomatic options exist that could be used to persuade the country’s leadership to disarm its nuclear program and engage in meaningful negotiations to resolve differences and reunite North and South Korea in the future.

Literature Review.

One of the major problems facing policymakers in the United States is the inability to gather current and reliable intelligence concerning what the North Koreans are doing. According to Dorn, “North Korea’s nuclear program was the focus of large international attention during 1994 when North Korea and the United States appeared on the brink of war. The 1994 Agreed Framework avoided a military clash and sought to halt North Korea’s plutonium program in exchange for the construction of light-water reactors and energy assistance” (2005, 19). By 2002, though, North Korea revealed its prohibited uranium enrichment program, and the inability of the U.S. intelligence community to gauge the country’s progress has been criticized at home and abroad (Dorn 2005). Based on his analysis of intelligence reports from 1992 to 2004, Dorn suggests that while the country’s nuclear proliferation efforts remain clouded in secrecy, there is clear evidence of its intentions in the form of its missile program. In this regard, Dorn maintains that policymakers in the U.S. will bury their heads in the sand at their peril when it comes to these alarming developments: “To ignore or refute North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile development is a weak response to what could potentially be a lethal and coercive nuclear arsenal” (Dorn 2005, 20). A native of New Zealand, Dorn appears to hold some grudges against the second Bush administration’s failures to achieve substantive progress in this area, this author makes some valid points that are supported by ample evidence that there is plenty to worry about when it comes to North Korea’s nuclear capability.

Other authorities maintain that North Korea’s leadership recognizes that it is walking on a very slippery slope and would likely return to the bargaining table if it felt it was no longer being threatened by the U.S. presence in South Korea and the growing militarism in Japan. In this regard, Sigal suggests that, “A policy of pressure will only make it feel more insecure. If we really have no intention of starting a war in northeast Asia, let’s put it in writing, conclude a peace treaty, and finally end the cold war” (2005, 170). Sigal is a member of the Social Science Research Council and presents a balanced analysis of the situation in North Korea based on his analysis of the U.S. intelligence community’s reports and authoritative studies of the peninsula in recent years. Even the best of these analyses, though, remains conjectural in many cases. For instance, based his unbiased view on an assessment of past reports, Mattox emphasizes that when it comes to North Korea, U.S. analysts have “a blurred image of suppositions concerning real capabilities and real intentions based on ever-changing intelligence estimates and interpretations of imagery — some of them very good, others very poor” (2007, 150). An associate research professor at the Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College evinces some bias, though, when, based on his analysis of U.S. intelligence reports, he clearly asserts that North Korea “is a place so bizarre as to be beyond the ken of the modern world. The system is bizarre, the leader is loopy, and the entire North Korean situation is basically beyond our comprehension” (Scobell 2007, 117).

Taken together, the foregoing findings suggest that the opportunity to persuade North Korea to disarm its nuclear capability exists if a sufficient amount of reliable and timely information can be garnered that can be used to determine what it is precisely that North Korea is seeking and how the international community can deliver it.

Theoretical Framework

The proposed study will use an exchange theory as its theoretical framework, an approach that appears to be particularly well suited to the issues at hand. For instance, according to Neuman, “Human interactions are similar to economic transactions. People give and receive resources (symbolic, social approval or material) and try to maximize their rewards while avoiding pain, expense and embarrassment. Exchange relations tend to be balanced; if they are unbalanced, persons with credit can dominate others” (2003, 56). The fundamentals of exchange theory are illustrated at Appendix a. This approach to analyzing the current situation in North Korea will help add to the existing body of knowledge by developing fresh insights into the possible motivating factors that have characterized North Korea’s negotiations with the West in general and the United States in particular in the past and will help address the hypothesis to be tested which is stated below.



The likelihood that it will be possible to persuade North Korea to dismantle its nuclear capability will be increased if American military forces are removed from South Korea.

This hypothesis will be qualitatively tested based on a preponderance of the evidence that results from the critical review of the literature described above.


Auton, G.P. (2007). “North Korea: Another Country.” Korean Studies 31, 100-101.

Barry, M.P. 2007. “North Korea Requires Long-Term Strategic Relationship with the U.S.”

International Journal on World Peace 24(1): 37-38.

Catchpole, B. 1998, November. “The Commonwealth in Korea.” History Today, 33.

Dorn, B. 2005. “North Korea: A Threat to Regional Stability?” New Zealand International

Review 30(6): 19-20.

Mattox, J.M. 2007. “Spying on the Bomb: American Nuclear Intelligence from Nazi Germany

to Iran and North Korea.” Parameters 37(1): 150-151.

Neuman, W.L. 2003. Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches, 5th ed. New York: Allyn & Bacon.

Rugman, a.M. & Brewer, T.L. 2001. The Oxford Handbook of International Business. New York: Oxford University Press.

Scobell, a. 2007. “Notional North Korea.” Parameters 37(1): 117-118.

Shuja, S.M. 2002, August. “North-East Asia and U.S. Policy.” Contemporary Review 281(1639):


Sigal, L.V. 2005. “Nuclear North Korea: A Debate on Engagement Strategies.” Korean Studies

29, 170-171.

Appendix a

Theoretical Framework


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