In the early decades of the Cold War when North Korea maintained only a large conventional force, alliance strategy depended on technological superiority. As North Korea gradually acquired cruise and short-range ballistic missile capabilities in addition to its conventional forces, the US nuclear umbrella and alliance missile defense capabilities took on greater salience. But as North Korea expands and improves its nuclear and missile delivery capability, the abstract promise of the US nuclear umbrella and missile defense may prove inadequate to prevent at least limited war scenarios.
This paper argues that North Korea’s nuclear posture complicates the US-ROK alliance military strategy. Even at the most modest levels of Pyongyang’s predicted nuclear development, the alliance will be faced with a strategic dilemma, for there can be no forced regime change or unification without expecting North Korean nuclear use, whether as a first strike or retaliatory.
Download the report, “Alliance Military Strategy in the Shadow of North Korea’s Nuclear Futures,” by Van Jackson.
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This publication results from research supported by the Naval Postgraduate School’s Project on Advanced Systems and Concepts for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (PASCC) via Assistance Grant/Agreement No. N00244-14-1-0024 awarded by the NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center San Diego (NAVSUP FLC San Diego). The views expressed in written materials or publications, and/or made by speakers, moderators, and presenters, do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Naval Postgraduate School nor does mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the US Government.
This North Korea’s Nuclear Futures Series was also made possible by support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
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