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North Korea Nuclear Weapons Essay

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North Korea: Motivations for Acquiring Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Strategy


It is estimated that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) possess between four to ten nuclear weapons with a yield of approximately six to ten kilotons each.1 It also has a variety of short-and medium-range missiles.2 To the dismay of much of the international community, North Korea has so far conducted four missile tests and three nuclear tests; the last one of which occurred on February 12th 2013.3 Arguably one of the most secretive and closed off countries in the world, any attempts to explain the DPRK’s true motivations for acquiring nuclear capabilities are mere speculations.4 In 2012, the Japanese National Institute for Defense Studies published a piece on the Korean Peninsula in which it drew a clear picture of the DPRK current strategic goals. These include the reunification of South and North Korea in a manner that is beneficial to the DPRK, the maintenance and fortification of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), improving its nuclear and missile defense capabilities, as well as upgrading its ability to deter aggression from the American and South Korean forces. 5 The review, nevertheless, presses that North Korea’s first and foremost goal is the survival of the Kim family. North Korean policies, both internal and external, thus, are assumed to be devised in a manner cognizant of this overarching goal. This paper will argue that North Korea has used its nuclear capabilities as a tool to facilitate the achievement of its strategic goals, and in turn ensure the survival of the Kim regime. It will first briefly assess North Korea’s internal motivations for acquiring nuclear weapons, namely nation unity and amenability of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), and then its external practice as a deterrence tool as well as an extortion tool. It will further briefly explore the DPRK’s nuclear strategy and how it has sustained its nuclear credibility. Internal Motivations

North Korea faces two main internal security challenges. First, the Kim regime must maintain national unity in order avoid civil unrest.6 To this mean, the Kim regime has engaged in a series of ‘rally around the flag’ propaganda measures, which has fostered, based on military prowess and self-reliance, a strong North Korean national identity.7 North Koreans, from a very young age, are indoctrinated to associate their state’s nuclear capabilities with national pride, on account of the power that nuclear weapons yield to a nation internationally.8 9For example, the regime makes well known to its people that it is home to the only Korean nuclear program. 10 They emphasize that although the South has long expressed an interest in developing its nuclear capabilities into weaponry, it has nonetheless been deterred to do so as a function of its dependence and subjection to American military aid. 11 The nature of their nuclear program, allegedly a fully independent endeavour, which they broadcast to their population as stemming from North Korean technology and wisdom, acts as a further source of national pride.12 Maintaining a good relation with the Korean People’s Army (KPA) is also at the core of the Kim regime’s internal ...

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