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Rationality or Irrationality? Deterrence in the Survival Strategy of the North Korean Regime

POWCHAROEN, PHAN-ORN (2015) Rationality or Irrationality? Deterrence in the Survival Strategy of the North Korean Regime. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



Much of the academic literature portrays North Korea as an irrational rogue state whose behaviour is aggressive and dangerous, as exhibited through the regime’s continuous efforts to obtain nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems, and attempts to threaten neighbouring countries with words or provocations. North Korea is viewed as a cause of regional instability since the regime’s high level of defence preparedness and acts of provocation drive the other regional powers to search for their own security in an attempt to offset the belligerence of this state. Although International Relations theory has long recognised the problem of the insecurity states experience in living in the system of international anarchy, the case of North Korea seems to shows that states can have an excessive deterrence threshold that arises from a high level of threat perception, which is driven by the environment of the regime and specific internal determinants inside the North Korea system. Nuclear weapons development has some connection with the regime’s internal system when it can help support the legitimacy and power of the leader and at the same time is used in a strategic way to cover the regime’s failures in supplying essential. Moreover, the strategy of excessive deterrence is used by North Korea for international leverage with the United States and the international community as the nuclear weapons will be used by North Korea in the negotiating process.

The question then arises if North Korea’s deterrence strategy conforms to assumptions of rational actor behaviour when it is clear that the situation of high tension benefits North Korea more than peaceful coexistence and the deterrence strategy is used beyond the survival purposes of a normal state. It is the aim of the thesis to find out if North Korea’s behaviour and deterrence strategy are rational or irrational when considered through the theory of rational deterrence and the idea of security dilemma. In particular deterrence theory suggests that states should not actively seek a security dilemma with multiple antagonists yet seemingly this is what the DPRK posture of excessive deterrence achieves. It is hoped to explain if North Korea is one of the normal states calculating its own survival and interest in the condition of anarchy or is an irrational actor that uses unpredictable and criminal behaviour in promoting security dilemmas in the inter-state system from its own distorted view of regime legitimacy and survival.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:North Korea, DPRK, Rationality, Irrationality, Survival Strategy, Deterrence, Security Dilemma
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Government and International Affairs, School of
Thesis Date:2015
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:05 Oct 2015 10:30

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