Rogue proliferator? North Korea's nuclear fuel cycle & its relationship to regime perpetuation
North Korea is unlikely to relinquish its nuclear program because of its importance to the perpetuation of the Kim regime. This conclusion arises from the observation that the nuclear program has been a long-term project spanning several decades, culminating in denuclearisation negotiations, which have followed a cyclical pattern in which the North has provoked crises to extract concessions and gain leverage vis-a-vis regional states. It is clear that the nuclear program has great intrinsic value to Pyongyang. First, this paper argues that the sunk costs of previous investment in the nuclear program, as evidenced by the infrastructure for the country's nuclear fuel cycle, create forward momentum favouring continuation of the nuclear program. Second, it argues that the nuclear program solidifies Kim regime rule as an institutional buttress, as a prop for the domestic economy, and as a vehicle for ideological legitimation. The paper is a unique contribution, which explicitly links the Kim regime's proliferation calculus to the economic and bureaucratic imperatives of regime perpetuation, as well as the sunk cost of previous investment in the nuclear program. It provides a coherent explanation for North Korea's consistent unreliability in negotiations, and offers insights into future prospects of the denuclearisation process.
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