Emerging Threats, Force Structures, and the Role of Air Power in Korea

By Natalie W. Crawford | Go to book overview

Chapter Ten
COPING WITH THE NORTH KOREAN MISSILE
THREAT: IMPLICATIONS FOR NORTHEAST
ASIA AND KOREA
Chung Min Lee

RECONSIDERING NORTH KOREA'S STRATEGY

Despite nearly a decade of objectively worsening internal and external dynamics, North Korea continues to defy conventional wisdom. Under conditions that in most countries would precipitate major political upheaval, Kim Jong Il remains firmly in power. Nearly five years after the death of Kim Il Sung, eight years of consecutive economic contraction, famine, and progressively diluted alliances, structural integrity continues to be maintained. Contesting Kim's supreme reign and dominance of the North Korean polity is virtually unthinkable. From the outside looking in, and almost incredibly, North Korea seems to thrive on a spectrum of self-engineered crises. North Korea has demonstrated its ability to withstand severe pressures. And against nearly all odds, it has survived.

This basic supposition, i.e., that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) continues to attach paramount importance to survival and has so far succeeded, is a necessary but insufficient condition in understanding North Korea's strategic calculus. Why? Because equating North Korea's fundamental national security strategy with regime or state survival hinders an objective reading of Pyongyang's strategic objectives at three different, but interrelated, levels.

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