Security Competition and Denuclearization: The North Korean Nuclear Crisis and International Strategic Choices

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Differing approaches by key stakeholders to the North Korean nuclear issue is a

manifestation of the security competition among some of them, especially the two

Koreas, the United States, and China. These major players have competing visions of

national security objectives and priorities, including regional peace, regime stability,

alliance relationship, security assurance, and denuclearization. Some objectives are

overlapping, while others might be conflicting. For some countries, the pursuit of

some objectives might be contradictory to the pursuit of other objectives. In past

nuclear crises, these players tended to have different hierarchies of preferences, and

pursued different and at least partially contradictory approaches to realize them.

However, closer exploration of the previous nuclear crises find that it is possible for

these key players to curb their competition, so as to reach security cooperation and

avoid a transformation from security competition to security dilemma. In achieving

that goal, it is imperative for the key players to build mutual trust, to moderate their

security competition, and to resume multilateral negotiation based on a combination

of coercive means and pertinent incentives. It is also necessary for the key players in

the nuclear issue, especially the United States and China, to initiate discussion on

how to cooperate and respond to potential future unexpected scenarios.


Zhong Zhenming

Associate Professor, School of Political Science and International Relations, Tongji

University, Shanghai, 200092, China