Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs Articles

Tag: North Korea
  • Missile Woes: Why North Korea’s New (Monster) ICBM May Signal Significant Shortcomings in North Korea’s Nuclear Deterrent

    North Korea is currently observing a self-imposed moratorium on ICBM and nuclear testing. While this is a good start for negotiations, there is a genuine fear that North Korea has stopped testing simply because it no longer needs to test. Whether or not this is true—and whether there is truly a warhead gap—is something that time will tell. If tests resume in earnest, then it will be clear that North Korea has more work to do.

  • China–South Korea Relations Amid the Sino-­American Strategic Rivalry

    South Korea’s perception of China’s role in both the denuclearization and peaceful unification of the Korean Peninsula has in part shaped the Republic of Korea’s (ROK) current unwillingness to align itself with the US’s Indo-­Pacific Strategy, especially due to the significant effects Sino-­US tensions have on Beijing’s strategy toward the Korean Peninsula. In particular, Seoul remains concerned that outright alignment with the United States against China could exacerbate the Korean Peninsula’s position in Sino-­US strategic competition. For South Korea, this carries the risk of both Seoul’s diminished influence in the pursuit of Korean denuclearization amid Sino-­US tensions as well as a reduction of Beijing’s prospective support for Korean unification under the ROK’s lead.

  • The Failure of North Korean Containment: How Illicit Networks Fund the Nuclear Program—and the Need for a New Strategy

    The United States must accept a fundamental reality: the policy of forcing the Kim regime to relinquish its nuclear weapons program in exchange for sanctions relief is untenable. It is no closer to achieving results than it was in 2010, even while the DPRK produces long-­range missiles and plans to develop tactical nuclear warheads. The failure of trade sanctions exhibits the need for a new strategy to deal with the DPRK and its nuclear arsenal. Therefore, the United States should use multilateral talks to negotiate incremental deals that produce tangible results and build trust. Put simply, an enforceable security guarantee, achieved through mutual peace declarations, will help normalize the DPRK’s international relations so that it can undergo economic reform and emerge as a legitimate global partner. Such measures are more likely to attain results that all partners can agree on and could, at a minimum, result in a moratorium on future nuclear production and development. Only then can talks of the DPRK’s complete denuclearization be possible.

  • What Would a North Korean Do?: Washington Must See Issues from Adversaries’ Perspectives in Order to Move Past Outmoded Policies

    Washington must develop a wider, more comprehensive vision of the North Korea problem now, the North Korea problem then, and the best direction in which to take the North Korea problem moving forward. This key first step that Washington must take before establishing a promising North Korea policy is best accomplished by, in essence, thinking like a North Korean—or carefully considering the issues from the North Korean perspective to better gauge and understand their scope and value within negotiations. Understanding how North Koreans think regarding economic, social, military, and other critical issues will better equip negotiators to avoid the diplomatic errors of the past and better understand—for better or for worse—the validity of negotiations with North Korea moving forward.

  • Crossroads: Why and How the US Must Revise and Revolutionize Its Approach to North Korea

    In the face of a changing and resilient challenge, Washington must adopt a strategy and policy that are novel, flexible, and equally resilient. This new policy must be based upon informed analysis and assessment of North Korean intentions and what can and cannot be reasonably expected of the regime. This approach, titled strategic engagement, aims to continue deterrence and pressure but simultaneously adopt a policy of engagement and openness to negotiation on a wider range of fronts separate from nuclear weapons, including the economic, cultural, scholastic, diplomatic, military, humanitarian, and civilian.

  • Strategic Surprise from the Bike Trail: The Republic of Korea and the Bicycle

    This article examines how a network of recreational bike trails can become a tool to generate strategic surprise. The Republic of Korea, by the simple act of building recreational trails and tangibly rewarding citizens who use them, has begun to ready generations of robust, skilled defenders, a uniquely surprising strategy of defense and a transport system nigh invulnerable to interdiction.

  • North Korea: Nuclear Threat or Security Problem?

    The negotiation process on North Korean nuclearization is stalemated and no change seems likely anytime soon. This stalemate demonstrates the failure of the US policy, a very dangerous situation particularly in view of the absence of any viable American strategic approach to the issue, the ensuing divisions among allies, and lack of a coherent approach to North Korea. Continuing the policy of strategic patience, which would be Washington’s default position if no further progress occurs, is doomed to fail. Therefore, the United States must simultaneously enhance alliance cohesion while pursuing a credible negotiating proposal. This article lays out the reasons why that stance is needed now and is becoming more urgent. Such strategic approach can lead to better negotiated outcomes that would not only bring about denuclearization and North Korean security but also promote a new, more stable, equilibrium in Northeast Asia.

  • Path to Nuclear Weapons: Balancing Deterrence, Preemption, and Defense for South Korea

    The US–Republic of Korea alliance has been crucial to South Korean security policy calculations, especially the component of extended nuclear deterrence. Recent Special Measures Agreement negotiations on sharing military cost suggests that the price for US extended deterrence is likely to increase in the years to come. In addition to the cost of the US–ROK alliance being put in the spotlight, North Korea’s insatiable appetite for nuclear weapons, including missiles of all ranges, arguments for South Korea’s nuclear weapons development and armament are surfacing in Seoul as they did in 2016 when North Korea conducted nuclear tests. This article examines policy options for South Korea by examining costs and benefits of the extended nuclear deterrence and nuclear weapons armament. Unless there is a crisis situation shocking enough to completely change the game and lead to disruption of the alliance relationship and its structure, or a change in North Korea’s level of violence and animosity, the shared values and goals between South Korea and the United States will make the nuclear path cost-prohibitive for South Korea.
  • Japan Cancels Aegis Ashore: Reasons, Consequences, and International Implications

    In June 2020, the Japanese government canceled the planned construction of two Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense sites. This decision was unexpected for many in the security establishment. However, considering the circumstances and warning signs in previous months, the decision should not have been a surprise. In fact, Japan’s reversal on the Aegis Ashore sites may indicate a larger shift in defense priorities for the country and potentially signal a transitional trend with implications beyond Japan and the Indo-Pacific region.


The views and opinions expressed or implied in JIPA are those of the authors and should not be construed as carrying the official sanction of the Department of Defense, Air Force, Air Education and Training Command, Air University, or other agencies or departments of the US government or their international equivalents. See our Publication Ethics Statement.