Coerced into Concessions?
Today, North Korea announced that it reopened its nuclear plant at Nyongbyon nuclear complex to begin reproduction of its atomic bomb. This announcement comes a day after the communist state declared intentions to launch long-range rockets under the guise of putting satellites into orbit (again). These actions are banned by the United Nations sanctions, and the International Community is wary of the threats. However, according to Al Jazeera, analysts believe that these threats are a means of coercing the US to extend concessions to North Korea in the form of aid.
Coercion, according to Schelling in his “Arms and Influence,” is the act by which a bargain is met by both parties because one party is better off giving into the other, and worse off if not. Policy makers have to decide if the United States is better off giving concessions to North Korea, or allowing them to hypothetically expand their nuclear program. Currently, North Korea is prohibited from launching long-range rockets and from growing their nuclear program. In fact, to receive aid from the US, North Korea agreed to suspend its nuclear program. However, N. Korea argues that the rockets are actually for a peaceful space program to monitor weather patterns and that the state has a right to develop this technology.
The US threat assessment must take into consideration the credibility of North Korea. Several failed threats to launch rockets (as satellites) and develop nuclear capabilities have been directed at the West. One cannot forget the failed attempt in April 2012, where the launched rocket crashed minutes after launch. North Korea did subsequently launch a successful satellite into space 8 months later. These rockets are similar to the missiles that could deliver nuclear warheads long range, possibly reaching US soil. If the US takes these coercion measures seriously, lending more aid to North Korea will decrease US and UN credibility in enforcing non-proliferation. However, if the US ignores the threat, North Korea’s capabilities could very well expand to threaten the international community.