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The Persistent Status Quo with North Korea: Why Has So Little Changed Since 2017? 상세보기 화면
TITLE The Persistent Status Quo with North Korea: Why Has So Little Changed Since 2017?
AUTHOR Robert E. Kelly
Year 2019
Date September
Attached File
Keyword North Korea, Moon Jae-in, nuclear weapons, 2017 war crisis, detente, Donald Trump

The years 2017-2019 have been remarkable in the long stand-off with North Korea, as much for the drama of war-threats and then summits, as for the durability of the North Korean status quo. Indeed, given all the sturm-und-drang of both hawkish and then dovish approaches to North Korea since 2017, the greatest surprise is how little both alternatives have accomplished ‘on the ground.’ This essay investigates surprise―why is the North Korean status quo so persistent? Specifically, why have the hawkish and dovish deviations from the status quo since 2017 so failed to change much? Several hypotheses derived from levels of analysis theory in international relations are suggested. In brief, a leader level analysis would focus particularly on Trump’s personality―his swings of interest, his personalistic bargaining style, his sloth, his chaotic staffing. A domestic analysis would identify the divisions within both the United States and South Korea over policy toward the North. And a structural answer would posit the value of nuclear deterrence as the cause particularly of Trump’s failure to budge Pyongyang. Because North Korean intentions, particularly Kim’s psychological preferences, are only poorly discernible, assigning causal weight to each hypothesis is quite difficult so long as the North’s opacity persists. Hence this essay focuses on concept and hypothesis development while nonetheless laying out what evidence there is.


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