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A Study on the Failure of Conventional Deterrence: The Case Study of the Bombardment of Yeonpyeong in 2010

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States

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In 2010, North Korea launched an artillery bombardment of South Koreas Yeonpyeong Island, killing four, wounding 18, and damaging over 100 buildings. Despite conventional military superiority, the Republic of Korea-United States ROK-U.S. alliance failed to deter this significant North Korean low-intensity provocation LIP.This thesis examines the Yeonpyeong deterrence failure to ask how the ROK-U.S. alliance can deter North Korean LIP in the future. It examines the requirements for conventional deterrence, identifies traits that distinguish conventional and nuclear deterrence, and develops an original matrix of conventional deterrence criteria that can be applied to specific cases. The thesis then utilizes this matrix for a structured case study of the Yeonpyeong bombardment.The thesis finds that most of the criteria for successful conventional deterrence were absent prior to the Yeonpyeong bombardment, indicating multiple reasons for deterrence failure. Among other factors, the alliance ignored intelligence regarding increased North Korean military deployments near the island, and had not demonstrated a likelihood of response in similar incidents in the past.The conclusions provide numerous lessons applying to both future studies of conventional deterrence effectiveness and the policy requirements for the ROK-U.S. alliance to successfully deter LIP by an increasingly dangerous North Korean regime.

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Technical Report



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