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