North Korea's instrumentalization of diplomacy: Passing through the "danger zone" of its nuclear weapons program

Matthias Maass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In this article, it is argued that until recently Pyongyang has been using diplomacy to deflect threats of coercion or possibly preemption from its nuclear weapons program. After the decision was made to acquire nuclear weapons capability, Pyongyang decided to use the process of nuclear crisis diplomacy that unfolded in the early 1990s in ways that would allow it to weather any repercussions and counter any efforts of coercion. Pyongyang did not, it seems, negotiate in good faith toward realizing a goal of actual denuclearization. In the paper, a historical analogy is used to demonstrate the broader strategic logic. At the turn of the twentieth century, imperial Germany embarked on a plan to build a major navy. In order to prevent preemption to be triggered by such a radical program, its leadership developed the so-called Tirpitz Plan, which German foreign policy wanted to become the instrument of this armament program and prevent preemption. By using the Tirpitz Plan as a matrix for analysis of North Korea's nuclear diplomacy, new light is shed on nearly two decades of denuclearization efforts. Pyongyang's strategic thinking about nuclear weapons and its instrumentalization of diplomacy come into clear focus. The findings open up new questions for ongoing or future efforts to prevent further nuclear proliferation as well.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-320
Number of pages18
JournalKorean Journal of Defense Analysis
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Safety Research
  • Political Science and International Relations


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