Producing Security Dilemma out of Uncertainty: The North Korean Nuclear Crisis
This article analyzes the North Korean nuclear crisis as an empirical case that reveals the security dilemma logic present in world politics that is overlooked in international relations theories of security dilemma. Although many typically blame either Pyongyang or Washington for the crisis, this article argues that both the ‘North Korean threat’ thesis and the ‘U.S. threat’ thesis are incomplete and partial as an explanation for the North Korean nuclear crisis. A more comprehensive, and less partial, understanding of the crisis can be achieved by synthesizing the antithetical hypotheses into a dynamic model that takes into account the strategic interactions between Pyongyang and Washington. In other words, the crisis itself is a manifestation of the security dilemma logic that North Korea and the United States have produced, acting under uncertainty about each other’s capacity and intention. And the security dilemma itself has ensued because their behaviors are guided by their identities in a way that exacerbates their social relationship. The North Korean nuclear crisis is, in short, constituted by destructive interactivity between their behaviors and identities. To acknowledge the reality of security dilemma and the necessity of positive reciprocity would be the necessary first step in the long journey toward ending the nuclear crisis.
Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies
North Korea; Nuclear War; National Security; Uncertainty