North Korea’s Long Game

For anyone who’s not yet aware of it, John McCreary’s NightWatch is really an incredible resource. Not only does McCreary cut through some of the signal noise of news coverage, he also includes generous pointers in terms of crisis analysis and historical context for young analysts. As someone who spends a good deal of time wading through open source coverage, I’m quite grateful that someone like McCreary is both out there and willing to share his expertise. His narrative explanation of North Korea’s strategic objectives from today’s dispatch is essential reading. Most of the reporting I’ve seen emphasizes Pyongyang’s “bluster […]

Gauging Intentions in International Relations

Banning Garrett beat me to this topic, which had been rattling around in the cranium for the past few days, with his essay at the New Atlanticist: There is an all-too-common practice in Washington punditry ofattributing strategic intentions to other countries without anyapparent evidence. . . . Assessments of strategic intentions are critically important ininter-state relations and should be made carefully and withconsiderable evidence. The stakes in getting it right or wrong can bevery high. Garrett writes in response to a Dan Blumenthal and Robert Kagan op-ed in the Washington Post discussing China’s intentions vis à vis North Korea. But […]

North Korea: Pariah Power

Cheryl Rofer (via Progressive Realist), at the end of an informative post about the North Korean nuclear test, adds this as an afterthought: . . . North Korea, partly on its own and partly because of the actions ofother countries, is isolated in a way that no other country is. It canbe reasonably sure there will be no military retaliation because ofSeoul’s proximity and China’s fear of a flood of refugees. So it isfree to do as it pleases. And, whatever its objectives may be, it canfreely pursue them. This is where strategies of isolating andsanctioning countries leads. The rest […]

Nork Nukes: Not So Fast

There’s probably some complex game theory calculations necessary to figure out if it makes sense to claim that the DPRK nuclear test was a failure even if it was a success. Then again, the actual seismic data is a matter of public record, and the calculations follow from that. Be all that as it may, according to the FAS’ Hans Kristensen, the initial Russian estimates of a 10- to 20-kiloton Hiroshima-type blast are wildly off the mark. Jeffrey Lewis agrees, putting it in the 2- to 6-kiloton range. That’s better than the .5- to .8-kiloton “dud” from 2006. (Was it […]

Japan and the North Korean Threat

Is there any other country on earth about which this sentence could be written? Despite being rigidly observed, Japan’s 1976 ban on arms exports was never passed as a law. Interesting to note that the only exception made to the ban to date was with regard to missile defense technology to address North Korean proliferation threats. As troublesome as the now-nuclear DPRK is to all parties involved, the major destabilization risk, outside of a sudden collapse of the regime, still involves Japan’s potential response. Even if it predates today’s test, the proposed lifting of the export ban comes in the […]