Carrot, Stick, or Sledgehammer: U.S. Policy Options for North Korean Nuclear Weapons   [open pdf - 733KB]

North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons has shaken the foundations of U.S. policy in Northeast Asia. Because of North Korea's record of state-sponsored terrorism, illicit activities, human rights violations, arms sales, and fiery rhetoric, its development of operational nuclear weapons is deeply disturbing. Although most agree North Korea should not possess nuclear weapons, nobody has a solution. This thesis evaluates three U.S. policy options for North Korean nuclear weapons: incentive-based diplomacy, coercive diplomacy, or military force. It analyzes them according to four criteria: the impact on North Korea's nuclear weapons, the impact on its neighbors (China, Japan, and South Korea), U.S. policy costs, and the precedent for future proliferation. This thesis shows that diplomacy will fail to achieve U.S. objectives for three reasons: lack of trust, DPRK reluctance to permit transparency, and the difficulty of conducting multilateral coercive diplomacy. Ultimately, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage's question must be answered: "What price is the United States willing to pay to disarm North Korean nuclear weapons?" If Washington is unwilling to back a threat of military force, it should not risk coercive diplomacy. Likewise, U.S. leaders may need to decide between maintaining the U.S.-ROK alliance and eliminating North Korean nuclear weapons.

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