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Why Does North Korea Engage in Provocations?

Ashley A.C. Hess

Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs, 2018, vol. 5, issue 1, 57-83

Abstract: Given the increasing number and severity of North Korean provocations, this article quantitatively analyses the relationship between North Korean actions and different types of events and actions taken by the international community commonly described as ‘triggers’ for these provocations. A database of 257 possible trigger events and 88 North Korean provocations, covering the period from 1 January 2012 through 21 November 2016, was developed for investigation. Statistical analyses assessed correlations between specific types of trigger events and North Korean provocations writ large as well as the specific level of provocation. The article concludes that, despite media and academic assessments to the contrary, the notional trigger events explored in this article appear to be uncorrelated with either North Korea undertaking a provocation or its level of severity. The strongest finding supports the concept of provocation cycles, in which the clearest predictor of a North Korean provocation is simply whether or not another provocation has recently taken place. Yet, the article also finds that in these situations additional provocations may more likely be of a lower level, such as short-range missile tests or limited naval incursions. International leaders’ decisions should be informed by this apparent lack of significant correlation between provocations and events such as USA–South Korean military exercises, United Nations Security Council resolutions, or a high-level US visit to the region.

Keywords: North Korea; international conflict; military/armed forces; United States of America (USA); South Korea; provocations (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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DOI: 10.1177/2347797017749044

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