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North Korea’s Nuclear and Missile Programs

Tai Ming Cheung and Stephan Haggard

Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, Working Paper Series from Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, University of California

Abstract: The international community has consistently underestimated North Korean nuclear and missile capabilities. How has an economically impoverished, technologically backward, and internationally isolated state been able to establish robust and increasingly competent nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs? Has the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) achieved this on its own, as it proudly claims? Or has it been predominantly reliant on foreign sources and if so, to whom and in what ways? This brief synthesizes what we know about the development of North Korean nuclear and missile capabilities, which together makes up the country’s strategic weapons complex. These industries have made rapid and concerted progress up the global innovation ladder over the past few decades. Indeed, this highly secretive apparatus is probably the most innovative, dynamic, technologically advanced, and privileged segment of the North Korean economy. The barriers to dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program are substantial, and ultimately depend on strategic choices in Pyongyang. Will the DPRK continue to focus on developing the next generation of strategic weapons as negotiations stall out, or will they shift resources to other economic activities? Nuclear negotiations must consider the deeper implications of the sprawling nuclear and missile industrial complex: how to bring greater transparency to this infrastructure and assure it is rolled back.

Keywords: Social and Behavioral Sciences; nuclear; north korea; missile programs (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020-07-01
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