New publication: Engaging North Korea: The Role of Economic Statecraft

June 1, 2011 8:00 AM

Last week the East-West Center released our monograph Engaging North Korea: The Role of Economic Statecraft.  North Korea’s political economy and its external relations render it remarkably insensitive to either sanctions or inducements. Instead, its behavior appears driven to a significant extent by domestic political considerations and regime survival. It is conceivable that as the regime consolidates power internally, it may be more willing to undertake risks and engage in negotiations more seriously and substantively. It is possible that external constraints have simply not imposed enough pain, and that the country’s worsening food shortages might push the regime to reengage or to exploit a humanitarian gesture. But the converse appears equally, if not more, plausible: that the post–Kim Jong-il leadership may be too politically insecure or divided to make meaningful concessions, and consolidation will only reinforce the pre-existing trends toward a more hard-line and truculent policy. If so, the ultimate resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue may await fundamental change in the political regime.

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Marcus Noland Senior Research Staff

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