In the eyes of most, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has been nothing short of a nuisance when it comes to international relations. From the very beginning, starting with the Korean war that has been dragged on for decades, to the unexpected, unapproved nuclear weapons testing, it is evident to why essentially no countries are willing to put up with the DPRK’s antics. Kim Jong Un, the successor of his father, Kim Jong Il, took over power in 2011 following his death.
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Throughout this paper, I plan to delve into the specifics of the current situations going on within the DPRK as well as the countries involved. I also plan to identify the major goals of the country as well as the challenges that they have faced trying to reach their goals, I will analyze the current state of being for the DPRK using the three levels of analysis, individual level, state level as well as international or systemic level. I will also suggest potential solutions that could possibly benefit all involved.
Currently, the DPRK is one of the most secretive countries in today’s world. With not many allies, it is unknown what they are up to at any given time. With being one of the world’s last totalitarian dictatorships, the rogue state has not only continued to threaten its neighbors, but others all over the world. North Korea has been able to develop its weapons extremely quickly which is posing a threat not only to the surrounding neighbors but also countries like the U.S and Japan that are in the midst of talks with them. To the outside world, Kim Jong Un is a brutal, unpredictable leader. But, in the eyes of the North Korean public, he is worshiped like a god. To the outside viewers, we naturally see the DPRK as a dreadful, gloomy place. To the people who reside there, it is a place of peace. With North Korea continuing the nuclear testing as well as the long-range rocket launches in defiance of the United States, tensions only rise between the countries. Shortly after North Korea made the claim that they were indeed going to continue with the testing of nuclear weapons, they went ahead and launched their third nuclear test in the countries’ history, but the first nuclear test under the reign of Kim Jong Un (Sanger and Sang-Hun). Following that third nuclear test, in August of 2017, the United Nations security council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea due to the advancements in their nuclear program. With North Korea longing to be recognized as a nuclear power, they are doing everything that they can think of to gain the attention of the U.S, Japan as well as China. South Korea on the other hand, is working with the U.S with hopes of one day having a peaceful coexistence between the two countries. There have also been talks of unity between the two. Over the past year or so, there have been various meetings between the two countries which have been labeled as summit meetings. These summit meetings have taken place in both capital cities of North Korea as well as South Korea. The overall goal of these summit meetings for South Korea is to eventually be recognized as a unified state. One positive takeaway from these summit meetings so far is the fact that North and South Korea ended up submitting a joint bid to the 2032 Summer Olympic Games. Although that is a long time from now, it is still a significant step in the improvement of relations between the two countries. The bid for the Olympic games was a strong move made by North Korea as it shows that they are serious about wanting to get a deal done with the United States as well as South Korea. Later on, in the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympic games, North and South Korea marched out together under the unification flag together. This is something that has only happened twice before, which makes it immensely important. With North Korea following directions from influencing countries, it seems the overall goal here for the DPRK, is to be recognized as a nuclear power, but at the same time, live in a peaceful coexistence with South Korea, to the point where eventually, they will be able to benefit from the aid of South Korea’s allies.
The overall goal for the DPRK, seems to be to gain the recognition of a nuclear power. As a country that already possesses nuclear weapons, they are being taken very seriously in the talks of disarming them. Going back to the number of nuclear missile tests that were carried out, even though they were instructed not to, the tensions between the United States and North Korea have done nothing but risen. Some initial challenges that were faced regarding North Korea was the demand to shut down one of the biggest, key missile test facilities in the presence of international experts as well as potentially destroy it’s primary nuclear complex, as long as the United States agreed to the corresponding measures. As far as challenges that were imposed by other countries, the United States also, initiated an international economic and diplomatic pressure campaign on the DPRK to bring them into negotiations about denuclearization. The meetings between the U.S and North Korea seemed to have help the relations between China and North Korea, but North Korea also had their fair share of problems regarding China. For example, before, China had place economic sanctions on North Korea, with the idea that by doing so, North Korea would have no choice but to listen as China is their main trading partner. Eventually China did slowly lift the economic sanctions placed on the DPRK (De Luce and Delanian). According to the New York Times, along with other credible sources, North Korea is playing both the United States and China in order to maintain leverage and the status quo of nuclear testing. It seems that a major goal of North Korea is to maintain a successful two-track strategy. By having a credible nuclear program as well as steady economic development, they would be able to do just that. By following the rational model of politics, North Korea is choosing the course of action that is to be most in line with their personal preferences (Armadae). Being that now, they are considered to be a credible nuclear threat, they are able to have leverage when it comes to talks of denuclearization.
As far as analyzing the situation within North Korea, it is necessary to default to the three levels of analysis. Those three levels consist of, first, the individual level, second, the state level, and lastly, international or systemic level. First off, using the individual level of analysis, it is obvious why North Korea is in the turmoil that they are in. With North Korea being one of the last totalitarian dictatorship left in today’s modern world, the Kim family has been one of the most brutal families to this date. After taking over the throne once his father passed, Kim has made some significant changes to his regime. With the Korean war still technically going on, the DPRK has been hard to budge in negotiation talks as they are adamant about getting the upper hand. As far as the state level of analysis goes, it is most closely related to an anarchic state. The reason being, is that while analyzing on a state level, you see that the North Korean government is communist ruled. It has been said that North Korea has been documented starving as well as torturing their imprisoned population. On top of that, the media is entirely controlled by the government. With that being said, everything that is media related, is going to be swayed by the government. Propaganda against other countries are often displayed to the North Korean citizens to plant the picture in their mind that they are the best country in the world and that the United States is evil. Essentially, the power of the state, directly translates into the international interests of the state. As much as the DPRK would like to have solid allies that are more than trade based as well as having a sustained, recognized nuclear weapons program, it is highly unlikely due to the overall image that North Korea has portrayed for themselves.
Being an uncooperative, anarchic state that seems to do what they want, when they want, it is hard to trust them with such things as nuclear powers as they are able to completely destroy a territory with no effort at all. Coming from an unstable leader with a more than powerful regime, it is very important that the hegemon, being the U.S as well as the other countries involved, being Japan, China and South Korea, keep a close eye on North Korea as they are seen to be essentially a ticking time bomb. As far as the analyzation of the state or system level, it is important to recognize that North Korea is a very dangerous country. Not only due to the amount of poverty that floods North Korea, it is also extremely repressive of its culture and all of those who contribute to it. The threats made by the DPRK are seen as more serious now than they would be looked at prior because of the possession of nuclear weapons, the advancements that they have made as well as a ruthless leader to command it all. North Korea has its’ fair share of bad relations with countries. There are many countries that don’t even bat an eye towards them, and then there are others that are working to surpass them and keep them isolated. With the Unites States and South Korea making an attempt to work towards a common ground between the two countries, China is watching from a far analyzing each and every move. Essentially, South Korea wants a peaceful coexistence and maybe one day even unification between the two countries. South Korea knows that they are far from that but they are inevitably working side by side with the United States to find a common ground. The United States doesn’t want North Korea to have nuclear weapons, as they really don’t see the reason as to which they would need them in any scenario. For North Korea’s case, with all of these countries stacked against us, I can sympathize for why they would want to be recognized as a nuclear power. Below is a graph that depicts the number of missile tests that the DPRK has conducted from the years 1984-2017. As you can see within the chart, as Kim Jong Un, took over reign in 2011, the amount of nuclear tests have substantially skyrocketed. With those numbers, it is apparent to why these countries are starting to take action. Mixing a communist country, with a unpredictable leader and nuclear weapons, is going to naturally call for the attention to those neighboring countries as well as the United States.
There are few solutions in this case in which these countries achieve what they want. As we know, North Korea is fighting to be recognized as a nuclear power, which isn’t necessarily ideal for their neighboring countries as well as other world powers. South Korea is hoping for the United States to stop North Korea from the high level of nuclear testing and for them to influence North Korea to forge better relations with South Korea. This would benefit both North and South Korea not only economically but socially too. If it is apparent that North Korea can cooperate and work together with South Korea prior to forging closer relations, that increases the likeness that other countries would be willing to do the same as far as trading with them or forging relations of their own. For the United States, the ideal scenario would be for North Korea to improve relations with South Korea, and to disarm all nuclear test sites within the country. For North Korea, one possible solution would be to continue the summit meetings with South Korea, work towards better relations and in return possibly gain the rights to have limited nuclear weapons within the country. This solution is not exactly ideal for South Korea, as they do not want North Korea to have nuclear weapons and that is the same for the United States. Another possible solution for North Korea would be to keep holding out, accept the sanctions imposed on them by China and the United States and try to maintain leverage with the nuclear weapons that they currently have. This is the most likely scenario in my mind, the reason being is that North Korea is a very stubborn country when it comes to nuclear weapons. If it weren’t for the possession of nuclear weapons, there wouldn’t be much of an issue at all. Therefore I see North Korea doing everything in their power to maintain the leverage in this situation, that way they are able to keep talks open with the United States and South Korea, as well as maintain their nuclear programs for as long as possible.
The current situation in North Korea is nothing short of hectic. Between the number of different countries that are trying to get through to them, North Korea is seemingly holding strong and looking persistent when it comes to getting exactly what they want. North Korea is fighting for the rights to become a nuclear power in the world, but it is clear, that is not the ideal scenario for the United States and South Korea. After the multiple summit meetings between North and South Korea, there has finally been some sort of progress made. From marching together under the unification flag during the 2018 winter Olympics, to the closing of a key missile test facility, it is apparent that North Korea is ready to make some progress in the forging of better relations with the United States as well as South Korea. A real benchmark of progress was made during one of the summit meetings as the DPRK and the ROK submitted a joint bid to host the 2032 Summer Olympic Games. This right here is a key step in the forging of relations between the two countries as if they were indeed to be accepted for the joint bid, half of the events would be in South Korea and the other half would be in North Korea. This is unlike anything that has ever happened between the divided countries which is why it is so important in the eyes of the United States and South Korea. Although it is not decided that North Korea will ever really be recognized as a true nuclear power, this step in forging closer relations with the country that shares the border below them, significantly increases the chances of the United States compromising with them and potentially getting what they wanted after all.
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