Asian Security and the Trouble with North Korea July 2012

North Korea will continue to remain East Asia’s trouble-maker. Pyongyang’s active missile and nuclear programs leave the region’s main powers - China, Japan, South Korea and the ‘offshore balancer’ US - stay on alert, sometimes higher, sometimes lower. Pyongyang has no intention whatsoever to give up and dismantle its missile and nuclear programs as it would leave the country with no bargaining tools to employ for its political blackmail policies. China remains a staunch supporter of the current status quo, i.e. a divided Korean peninsula, not least because a reunified Korea would almost by default become a US ally. Japan on the other hand has lost patience with North Korea long ago. Although a member of the 6-Party Talks, Tokyo’s influence in the multilateral forum has decreased close to zero. While it remains yet to seen whether Pyongyang is in the months ahead prepared to go down that road, it cannot be excluded that the country’s new political leadership decides to conduct a third nuclear test seeking to demonstrate military strength to those who are - at least in principle - prepared to offer economic and financial benefits in return for Pyongyang taking the finger off the trigger.

Axel Berkofsky, ISPI Associate Senior Research Fellow and Director of the ISPI China and South Asia Program, presents the study.



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