Nuclear Weapons and North Korea
Is Acquisition Rational?
| James TimberlakePol Sci 240
The Soviet Union successfully tested its first nuclear bomb on August 29, 1949 that signaled an end to U.S. hegemony. At the conclusion of their April 2008 summit, Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin agreed that the Cold War was over. Conventional strategic thought and military action can no longer prevail in an era of increased globalization. Developing states, such as North Korea, as well as irrational actors, like South Korea, can play an increasingly influential role among the international world. The success of the former Soviet Union with nuclear proliferation established an imbalance of power in Eastern Europe causing a global level of insecurity. As the Cold War evaporated, the protection of states by the former Soviet Union’s nuclear umbrella also disappeared causing them to look elsewhere or internally for protection of their sovereignty. Herein lies the purpose of this paper – to establish whether it is rational for North Korea to pursue the acquisition or development of nuclear weapons. By using two of Sagan’s theoretical models: security and domestic politics, this paper will establish whether it’s rational for North Korea to pursue nuclear weapons. THE SECURITY MODEL
The security model establishes neorealist assumptions that nuclear weapons serve as deterrents or coercive tools to compel changes in the status quo against another state. Kenneth Waltz argues that the distribution of capabilities across states defines the structure of the international system. An anarchic, decentralized, and self-help system, a state’s survival stems from the relative power or capabilities. This pursuit of power equates to a zero-sum game where one state’s gain comes at another state’s loss. Thus there is a powerful incentive for North Korea to maximize its power to guarantee its long-term security. The destructive power of nuclear weapons will shift the balance of power in the region from the U.S. to North Korea and guarantee the security of the state and would compensate for the ineffectiveness of conventional forces while presenting a danger to our rivals. States must “balance against any rival states that develop nuclear weapons by gaining access to their own nuclear deterrent” and access to nuclear weapons is an effective means for North Korea to balance its power against our rivals. Most notably, it establishes the strong incentive to acquire nuclear weapons to deter states by raising the cost of possible war. Even the smallest risk of nuclear war can generate a strong deterrence. Given the devastatingly high cost, leaders are unwilling to suffer the consequences accompanied with nuclear retaliation. The ultimate means of prevention is the development of nuclear weapons and provides North Korea the motivation to obtain them, thus guaranteeing her future survival. B. Analysis
North Korea’s initial decision to acquire nuclear weapons was influenced by the capitulation of the Japanese in 1945 after the U.S. nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This destructive power demonstrated the superior military capabilities and established the U.S. as the dominate power in the international realm. It also demanded North Korean leaders believe that the country has been exposed to a U.S. nuclear threat since the Korean War. Possession of a nuclear capability is then perceived as an effective means to deter the U.S. from launching an attack. The fall of the Soviet Union and weakening relations with China provided North Korea with an impetus for further advancement of its nuclear capabilities. Prior to the downfall of the Soviet Union and China’s desire for economic reform, North Korea enjoyed the nuclear umbrella both countries had established against U.S. aggression. This defense pact required that any armed attack would force...
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