US-North Korea: From Brinkmanship to Dialogue; Strategic Insights: v.2, issue 4 (April 2003)
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Tensions surrounding North Korea escalate unpredictably on an almost daily basis. Much of this volatile situation can be ascribed to Pyongyang's willingness to engage in a reckless combination of provocative acts and rhetorical tirades that constitute its infamous diplomatic brinkmanship. North Korea's willingness to make use of its nuclear option in a U.S.-DPRK diplomatic meeting last October seems to have been motivated by a desire to reinforce its peculiar brand of deterrence. The Kim Jong-il government was further emboldened in subsequent months by the combination of two sets of circumstances. First were favorable political developments in South Korea--in the form of December's election of President Roh Moo-hyun, who strongly favors ROK engagement of the DPRK and took office riding a wave of strident anti-Americanism. The second were the United States' commitments within its war on terrorism and related tensions in the Middle East that stretched U.S. strategic resources. Against this background North Korea saw an opportunity.
This article appeared in Strategic Insights (April 2003), v.2 no.4