Efforts to denuclearize North Korea continue, but it is highly doubtful whether this goal will be reached. An often-expressed fear of a nuclear-armed North Korea is that it might use this capability to coerce reunification with the South on its terms. Though its leaders often speak of the desire for reunification, North Korea will not and could not pursue a successful nuclear coercion strategy because it carries an inordinate amount of risk, even for Pyongyang, which raises serious doubts about the credibility of its nuclear threats, the possibility of success, and the likelihood of pursuing such a strategy in the first place. And even if North Korea were to succeed, its efforts to integrate the South Korean economy would be a disaster, leading to the end of the North Korean regime.
North Korea and Reunification: The Limits of Nuclear Coercion
Terence Roehrig is a Professor of National Security Affairs and Director of the Asia-Pacific Studies Group at the US Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, USA. He is the author of Japan, South Korea, and the United States Nuclear Umbrella: Deterrence after the Cold War (Columbia University Press, 2017). Email: <email@example.com>.
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Terence Roehrig; North Korea and Reunification: The Limits of Nuclear Coercion. Asian Survey 9 October 2020; 60 (5): 859–881. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/as.2020.60.5.859
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