Military and Security Developments Involving the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea 2012
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) remains one of the United States’ most critical security challenges in Northeast Asia. North Korea remains a security threat because of its willingness to undertake provocative and destabilizing behavior , including attacks on the Republic of Korea (ROK), its pursuit of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles, and its willingness to proliferate weapons in contravention of its international agreements and United Nations Security Council Resolutions.
North Korean aspiration for reunification – attainable in its mind in part by expelling U.S. forces from the Peninsula – and its commitment to perpetuating the Kim family regime are largely unchanged since the nation’s founding in 1948, but its strategies to achieve these goals have evolved significantly. Under Kim Jong Il, DPRK strategy had been focused on internal security; coercive diplomacy to compel acceptance of its diplomatic, economic and security interests; development of strategic military capabilities to deter external attack; and challenging the ROK and the U.S.-ROK Alliance. We anticipate these strategic goals will be consistent under North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong Un.
North Korea fields a large, forward-deployed military that retains the capability to inflict serious damage on the ROK, despite significant resource shortfalls and aging hardware. The DPRK continues to be deterred from conducting attacks on the ROK largely because of the strength of the U.S.-ROK Alliance. On a smaller scale, however, the DPRK has demonstrated its willingness to use military provocation to achieve national goals, such as in 2010 when it sank the ROK naval vessel CHEONAN, killing 46 ROK Navy sailors, and shelled Yeonpyeong Island, killing two ROK Marines and two civilians.
North Korea’s continued pursuit of nuclear technology and capabilities and development of long-range ballistic missile programs, as reflected in the December 2012 Taepo Dong 2 missile launch and April 2012 display of a new road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, underscores the threat to regional stability and U.S. national security posed by North Korea. These programs, as well as North Korea’s expressed hostility toward the ROK and proliferation of items prohibited under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1718, 1874, and 2087 make the DPRK a continued security challenge for the United States and its Allies and partners.