Risks and Promises in the Two Koreas

North Korea in recent years has linked its survival to that of its neighbors through a dangerous but nonetheless carefully designed military structure that makes its survival press sharply on that of its neighbors. The fragility of its internal position–food shortages, economic deprivation, and the lack of legitimate succession–becomes a perverse strength when linked to nuclear weapons and an army capable of destroying some significant part of the South, even if it is ultimately defeated. North Korea’s national security policy consists of linking internal and external pressures, so that outsiders had better not pressure North Korea where it may implode, or they may cause it to explode. The essence of the problem is that the North Korean state faces extinction in a world without communist support and protection, and this crisis of the North Korean state becomes a crisis for its neighbors through the mechanism of Pyongyang’s military institution–pulling together nuclear, chemical, and conventional military power for the purpose of protecting the state’s continued existence.

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