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Learning to live with a nuclear North Korea : strategies and likelihoods Brown, Whitney Lauren

Abstract

By identifying three key variables – international aid, international acceptance, and credible threat – that are significant in North Korean negotiations, this paper identifies several policy alternatives that present viable American concessions for a more secure Korean nuclear environment. Manipulation of these policy levers by the United States is intended to compel North Korea into concessions that will ultimately lessen the country’s humanitarian burden, improve bilateral relations, and create a more stable region by curtailing nuclear proliferation. For the United States to effectively extract concessions from North Korea, it must create incentives for compliance by changing the North Korea’s calculation of the three bargaining variables away from the equilibrium position. This paper finds that maintenance of the status quo is the most strategically secure policy for the United States if denuclearization by North Korea is improbable. Alteration of the status quo will result in a stronger North Korea (or at the very least, a strategically weaker United States), something that is both domestically unpalatable and not in their direct interest. Unless the United States can accept North Korea as a nuclear state and grant it the corresponding concessions needed to stabilize the region, it is unlikely that a new nuclearized direction will occur. Continuation of the current American foreign policy reflects the incompatibility of the two countries’ preferences and demands; it is a rationalist explanation for what seems an arbitrary strategy. In examining the United States’ current relationship with North Korea as a rational response to the regime’s noncompliance rather than a policy failure, this paper draws on bargaining theory and strategies of nuclear deterrence to consider the strategies available to engage other emerging nuclear powers.

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