News / Asia

    Experts: N. Korea Seeks Nuclear Weapons for Leverage, Legitimacy

    Official of Japan's earthquake agency points at graph of ground motion waveform data observed Feb. 12, 2013 from North Korean nuclear testOfficial of Japan's earthquake agency points at graph of ground motion waveform data observed Feb. 12, 2013 from North Korean nuclear test
    x
    Official of Japan's earthquake agency points at graph of ground motion waveform data observed Feb. 12, 2013 from North Korean nuclear test
    Official of Japan's earthquake agency points at graph of ground motion waveform data observed Feb. 12, 2013 from North Korean nuclear test
    North Korea, one of Asia’s poorest nations, has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in developing nuclear weapons. Yet that ambition has resulted in ever-tightening economic and diplomatic sanctions that make its poverty and isolation worse.

    As the world assesses Pyongyang's third nuclear weapons test, many policymakers ask why North Korea persists with its nuclear ambitions.

    North Asia security experts say one key reason is that Pyongyang sees nuclear weapons as a tool to get international attention and to force bigger, wealthier nations - chiefly the United States, to negotiate with it.

    Bruce Klingner, a Northeast Asia expert at the Heritage Foundation research institute, says that North Korea often alternates between trying to charm and then trying to intimidate the international community to get what it wants.

    Very often, he says, even when it tries to charm, Pyongyang provokes, and it finds provocation useful.

    “In a way, it makes them relevant," Klingner saidTuesday.  "If they didn’t have nuclear weapons, if they didn’t have a large conventional army, if they didn’t saber rattle, then we could ignore them.”

    The Korean Peninsula was divided after World War II into a communist-ruled North and a U.S.-backed South. From 1950 to 1953, the two fought a bitter war that ended in a draw; they signed an armistice but never a peace treaty. North and South Korea remain technically at war.

    Over the decades, South Korea has evolved into a thriving democracy that is one of the wealthiest nations in the world. It is firmly allied with the United States, which bases about 28,000 American troops in the country, as a deterrence to the North.

    The North has been increasingly isolated since the end of the Cold War between the former Soviet Union and Western nations. As its former allies turned to open markets and democracy, Pyongyang lost trade and income. For two decades, its main source of trade and aid has been neighboring China.

    The government remains firmly in the hands of the ruling Workers Party, and its current leader, Kim Jong Un, followed his grandfather and father to rule North Korea.

    But the economy has declined steadily over the past 30 years, and North Korea suffered a famine in the mid-1990s. Even now, it relies on foreign aid to feed its people.

    The country’s leaders emphasize its military over its economy.  Regional analysts say this is partly because of fears of its stronger neighbor and the United States.

    Raymond Tanter, an expert on weapons proliferation at Georgetown University, also says Pyongyang uses its military focus to maintain legitimacy at home.

    “The North Korean leadership has traditionally chosen guns over butter, that is to say the military option over feeding the people. And I think that this test is to galvanize the people around Kim Jong Un as a great leader in the tradition of his grandfather and his father,” Tanter says.

    Maintaining the Kim dynasty, several analysts have said, is so important to Pyongyang that it is willing to defy United Nations sanctions against it, and even rebel against the guidance of its ally, China. Joining the international community just is not important to North Korea, they say.

    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
    February 13, 2013 1:11 PM
    Sadam didnt have MDW, however died on this fake excuse. Kadhafi gave up its nuke program to please the west then got himself killed with humiliation.
    Iran and NK definitely learned the lesson. Hell they will give up the only change to keep them safe. And China still needs NK to distract US and Jap. US behaves unfriendly on Diaoyu island issue, China then doesnt have to help it on NK issue, simple and clear.

    by: Zert McDrogon from: Sarasota, fl
    February 12, 2013 7:36 PM
    Kim Jong Un watched the last dictator who tried to play nice with the rest of world dragged through the streets by his own people. Obama taught every dictator a lesson; get more nukes or similar things could happen to you.

    by: Bill from: Sunshine Coast
    February 12, 2013 7:11 PM
    It seems we do not understand the North Korean thought processes. All this money and effort to develop a weapon they can never use without inviting total annihilation. Perhaps the Chinese recognise this as all just posturing, which is why they take a fairly lenient line with North Korea. After all, would China want a nuclear confrontation on its door step, a war which would poison its atmosphere?
    In Response

    by: Zinder from: Cambridge,MA
    February 13, 2013 8:39 AM
    There is no alternative to accepting North Korea as a nuclear nation. We live in a world full of hypocrisy and multiple standards. Who permitted other nations to store nuclear weapons? Are they ready to relinquish them? You cannot intimidate all nations.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.