Notes from the Field

[REPORT] North Korea’s Provocations and their Impact on Northeast Asian Regional Security

January 5, 2011

In a new report published by The Asia Foundation’s Center for U.S.-Korea Policy, Research Associate See-Won Byun assesses regional security in Northeast Asia in the aftermath of the Cheonan sinking and the Yeonpyeong artillery barrage. The report focuses on dynamics among the United States, China, and the two Koreas. Read an excerpt below, or download the full report, “North Korea’s Provocations and their Impact on Northeast Asian Regional Security.”

The Yeonpyeong attack and international exposure of North Korea’s progress in pursuing uranium enrichment require a serious reassessment of the implications of North Korea’s expanding capacities, the long-term regional implications of DPRK provocations, and the prospects for a collective response that can adequately address North Korea as a primary source of regional instability. Widespread pessimism about the efficacy of Six Party Talks has undermined the prospects for building a permanent security mechanism in Northeast Asia. The regional response to North Korea’s provocations raises fundamental questions regarding the role of the U.S.-ROK alliance as well as China’s strategic priorities in responding to inter-Korean tensions and joint U.S.-ROK actions at a time of leadership transition in Pyongyang.

Without practical means by which to pressure North Korea to pursue denuclearization, policymakers face a stark choice between acceptance of North Korea as a de facto nuclear weapons state and the idea that denuclearization is only possible with regime change. North Korea’s stepped up external aggression and the regional responses reveal the following challenges that must now be resolved in a way that gives consideration to the need to both stabilize the inter-Korean relationship and address the dilemmas posed for North Korea’s neighbors, particularly China and the United States, as they consider next steps in dealing with North Korea. Read more.

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