26 April 2016
With strategic realities on the Korean Peninsula becoming more “fluid” or multi-faceted through the convergence of conventional, asymmetrical, low-intensity, and non-linear threat dimensions, defense planners in the U.S.-ROK Alliance have been rethinking existing strategies for responding to different levels of threats posed by North Korea.
Since assuming power four years ago, Kim Jong-un’s signature policy has centered on the “Byungjin Line” – simultaneously pursuing the production of nuclear weapons and the development of the national economy. The Byungjin Line has effectively underscored North Korea’s three main national security objectives: (1) preserving the current authority structure under the leadership of Kim Jong-un, (2) improving the country’s dysfunctional struggling economy, and (3) deterring “foreign adversaries” from taking actions which could threaten the regime.
In this context, North Korea’s recent military reforms have also reflected a mutually supporting dual-track approach. On the one hand, North Korea has sought to maintain the credibility and operational readiness of North Korea’s large, forward‐positioned, but technologically obsolete conventional forces; while improving North Korea’s asymmetric deterrence capabilities: from nuclear WMD programs, ballistic missiles, and increasingly cyberwarfare.
At its core, North Korea’s s nuclear program serves multiple functions such as ensuring regime survival and ideological control under the Kim Dynasty by fostering a constant fear of war among its population, deterring an attack by technologically superior U.S.-ROK conventional forces, and providing Pyongyang with political and diplomatic leverage for “coercive campaigns” against all of its neighbors but especially South Korea and China.
… Michael Raska is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, a constituent unit of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
GPO / IDSS / Online
Last updated on 27/04/2016