In this special report, Jina Kim analyses how North Korea’s changing nuclear strategy will affect South Korea in the case of simultaneous crises in Taiwan and on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea’s nuclear strategy appears to be departing from traditional deterrence principles, indicating a shift towards potential pre-emptive use of its nuclear capabilities. While North Korea had initially focused on building a robust ICBM force to deter the United States, its strategy has evolved beyond traditional deterrence. There’s also the notion that North Korea may aim to create a ‘nuclear shadow’ over its conventional forces to discourage comprehensive US military intervention. Consequently, North and South Korea are locked in a competitive cycle marked by efforts to balance each other’s increasing military capabilities. This report addresses several critical questions arising from these developments. It is divided into two parts, with the first focusing on arms control stability on the Korean Peninsula, analysing North Korea’s nuclear posture and its implications.
The second part explores crisis stability, considering the impact of simultaneous crises in Taiwan and the Korean Peninsula on North Korea’s strategic calculations. The report offers policy recommendations for South Korean policymakers to address these challenges effectively:
- Resume inter-Korean dialogue to build trust and establish operational hotlines for preventing inadvertent confrontations;
- Initiate crisis management dialogues with China through academic forums and government-level discussions to minimise unwarranted responses and deter crisis escalation;
- Create a regional dialogue for security cooperation, focusing on confidence-building measures to address grey-zone conflicts, proactive preparation for potential Taiwan-related crises, and collaboration with friendly nations for effective crisis management;
- Develop flexible response measures that avoid threatening adversaries’ survival and promote adaptable plans for nearnuclear crises;
- Explore comprehensive arms control measures that bridge North Korea’s security concerns and encourage negotiations on corresponding measures to improve regional stability.
About the Author
Jina Kim is the Dean of the Language and Diplomacy Division at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. She currently serves on various advisory boards, including the UN Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters as well as those of the Republic of Korea Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of National Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force, and Peaceful Unification Advisory Council.
The publication of this report was supported by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). The views represented herein belong solely to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of APLN or ELN, their respective staff, boards, or members, nor do they reflect the views of the FCDO.
Image: The Korean Peninsula and the Taiwan Strait, satellite image, iStock.