As noted above, at a 2013 meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of North Korea, Kim Jong-un declared the development of nuclear weapons as a priority for the regime in re-adopting the Byungjin Line. North Korea continues its stance on maintaining a nuclear arsenal as a deterrent and avows never to abandon its program.
American strategic thinking on North Korea has long been muddled by unproductively vague myths of irrationality, unpredictability and aggression. These unhelpful stereotypes shape much of the conventional wisdom and writing about North Korea and inhibit more sober analysis. This limits our ability to deal with North Korea effectively and respond to the DPRK’s threats. We consider it critical to the success of future U.S. policy to better understand Pyongyang’s perceptions of its strategic environment—and how that can be impacted through the experiences of other states thousands of miles away. In each of the above five lessons, North Korea drew parallels and modified policies based on the experiences and fates of other—primarily authoritarian—regimes. All of the policies developed in response to these incidents continue to shape the regime.
James F. Person is director of the Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Atsuhito Isozaki is Japan Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and an associate professor of North Korean Studies at Keio University, Japan.
Image: North Korean propaganda. Creative Commons / Flickr