Confrontation and engagement in relations between the DPRK and the United States, 1991-2011
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In examining why the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) pursues nuclear weapons, this study focuses on Pyongyang's consistent demand for normalization of relations with Washington. The primary aims of this study are 1) to study the significance of normalization of relations with Washington as an alternative to nuclear weapon development in the DPRK, 2) to investigate potential causal relationships between Pyongyang's policy choices and Pyongyang's expectation for normalization of relations with Washington, and 3) to examine whether culturally sensitive behavior significantly influences Pyongyang's policy decisions. To understand the significance of normalization of relations and the meaning of Pyongyang's behavior, this study depends heavily on cultural perspectives. In this study, two independent variables are examined for their effects on Pyongyang's policy, 1) Pyongyang's expectation for normalization of relations with Washington, and 2) the alignment of Washington's policy with Pyongyang's cultural code. Two hypotheses emerge from these two factors: first, when Pyongyang had high expectations for normalization of relations with Washington, Pyongyang was more likely to choose engagement policies and give less priority to pursuit of nuclear weapons; and second, the more Washington's policies harmonized with Pyongyang's cultural code, the more Pyongyang cooperated with Washington. Using case studies and discourse analysis, this study examines four periods from 1991 to 2011. Interviews with North Korean defectors and with South Korean experts complement this study of expectation and cultural meaning. The study concludes, first, that normalization of relations with Washington appeared to Pyongyang as a viable alternative to nuclear weapon development in providing a security guarantee and national dignity. Second, during most periods, Pyongyang appeared to believe that it was highly dependent on nuclear weapons for its regime survival when it could not expect the benefits of improved relations with Washington. By the same token, Pyongyang's regime survival seemed less dependent on nuclear weapons when it could expect improved relations with Washington. At some times, however, Pyongyang practiced confrontation as a way to improve domestic stability. But usually high context diplomacy by the United States elicited positive responses.