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 Genome Initiative Urgently Works to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Smithsonian senior research botanist Vicki Funk says ultimate goal is 'trying to get one-half of the diversity of plant life on Earth at the genus level in two years' More

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill More

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.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs