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North Korea: Return to an Engagement Strategy

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In many ways, the situation on the Korean peninsula is unchanged from fifty years ago when an armistice ended major combat operations of the Korean War. Large conventional forces face each other across the 38th parallel. Large North Korean artillery formations in range of Seoul can reduce portions of the city to rubble in a matter of hours. Occasional land and sea incursions into South Korean territory occur, resulting in fighting between North and South Korean forces. The United States maintains a large military force on the peninsula and in Japan as a deterrent to another invasion of South Korea. However, the strategic environment has changed significantly. The end of the Cold War brought significant economic growth to East Asia, leaving many nations tied to global trade to sustain their economies. Yet North Korea, essentially a failed state, is increasingly isolated, sustained only by outside assistance and its ability to allow her people to endure tremendous suffering. Despite that, it has invested heavily in military technology through the development, testing, and export of ballistic missiles and recent resumption of a nuclear-weapons development program. As a result, Pyongyang poses not only a conventional threat to South Korea it poses a regional and global nuclear threat. This paper will examine the strategic environment on the Korean peninsula, U.S. national interests and objectives, current U.S. policies, and recommend a strategy to resolve the current situation.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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