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Survival and Deterrence in North Korea

by Ankit Panda

Pub Date: July 1st, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-19-006036-7
Publisher: Oxford Univ.

A full-length look at the history and strategic implications of North Korea’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.

Panda, a senior editor at the Diplomat, traces the Korean quest for the bomb to Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, under whom the country built its first nuclear reactor in 1963. By 1985, the elder Kim had made enough progress that the Soviet Union pressured him into joining the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons. But with the U.S. having tactical weapons deployed in South Korea to offset the conventional military superiority of the North, Kim Il Sung had every incentive to continue working to acquire his own nuclear weapons. By the early 1990s, the CIA concluded that North Korea had generated enough weapons-grade plutonium for one or two bombs. The process of building a working bomb continued with help from A.Q. Khan of Pakistan—until, in 2006, North Korea conducted its first nuclear test. Since then, it has continued to conduct tests and to build delivery systems culminating in ballistic missiles able to deliver a bomb to the continental U.S. Panda gives a detailed, sometimes plodding account of each of the phases of this process, with attention not only to Korea’s actions, but to U.S. and international responses. An entire chapter looks at the back and forth between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump since 2017 while the final chapter examines the long-range implications of Korea’s emergence as a nuclear power. The book is especially valuable as a correction to the usual Western view of Kim Jong Un, in that the author shows the strategic and political logic behind his moves without ignoring his ruthless consolidation of power. Asia policy wonks, take note.

An unflinching examination of North Korea’s emergence as a nuclear power and its implications for the rest of the world.