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

    US Lawmakers Vow to Continue Immigrant Program for Afghan Interpreters

    Congressional inaction threatens funding for effort which began in 2008 and has allowed more than 20,000 interpreters, their family members to immigrate to US

    Brexit's Impact on Russia Stirs Concern

    Some analysts see Brexit aiding Putin's plans to destabilize European politics; others note that an economically unstable Europe is not in Moscow's interests

    US to Train Cambodian Government on Combating Cybercrime

    Concerns raised over drafting of law, as critics fear cybercrime regulations could be used to restrict freedom of expression and stifle political dissent

    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.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora