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3 Asymmetrical Strategies with No Obvious End

Kim So Yeol  |  2013-04-10 21:47
North Korea is now pursuing a three-pronged asymmetrical strategy, one involving missiles, nuclear devices and cyber warfare. It is designed to put pressure on the international community without demanding continual domestic mobilization or running the risk of an armed conflict that would put the existence of the North Korean state itself in peril.

First, according to the South Korean government, Pyongyang is now planning to launch a number of missiles. At the same time, there are fresh signs of activity at the countrys nuclear test site in North Hamkyung Province. Simultaneously, it has also been determined that last months massive, and effective, digital attacks on South Korean banking and media companies, including Daily NK, were the work of North Koreas General Bureau of Reconnaissance.

On the missile launch threat, South Koreas foreign minister, Yun Byung Se told a parliamentary committee earlier today, "According to intelligence obtained by our side and the United States, the possibility of a missile launch by North Korea is very high. The intelligence in question apparently shows that North Korea is preparing missiles for launch from an East Sea location in South Hamkyung Province. As a result, the military authorities in South Korea have raised their readiness level from WATCHCON 3 to WATCHCON 2.

The long-term issue is, of course, that North Korea is not able to stop at this missile threat. If it launches missiles in violation of UN Resolution 2094, the issue will go back to the UN Security Council. If the UN Security Council discusses additional sanctions, North Korea will have to respond with further acts of belligerence. Although war is unlikely, this is nonetheless a vicious cycle with no obvious end: by way of example, North Koreas third nuclear test came nominally in response to sanctions implemented by the UN as a result of the countrys missile launch last December.

Perhaps proving that North Korea is thinking a number of steps ahead, there are already vehicles at the nuclear test site near Punggye-ri in North Hamkyung Province. For its part, South Korea is confident that the North is in a position to conduct a further nuclear test at a time largely of its political choosing. Of course, even when the current situation finally transitions into a dialogue phase, as it remains likely that it will, North Korea will still need to keep developing its nuclear technology so as to maintain its nuclear-armed status. A permanent peace is seemingly not on the agenda, and those most likely to suffer are the North Korean people.

No matter what the North Korean media may say about simultaneously developing weapons and the economy, the so-called 'byungjin line', the country has chosen a path of regime maintenance through asymmetrical warfare across three spheres: missile launches, nuclear tests and cyber warfare. It is a realistic approach for them, one that allows for displays of strength without inciting armed conflict as outright physical provocations are now bound to do. The Kim Jong Eun regime needs to expand the leaders power base, and has concluded that the only effective way to do so in safety is through these means.
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