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  • Author: Seth G. Jones
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The Trump administration’s National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy outline a U.S. shift from counterterrorism to inter-state competition with China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. However, U.S. policymakers need to be prepared for much of this competition to occur at the unconventional level, since the costs of conventional and nuclear war would likely be catastrophic. U.S. strategy is evolving from a post-9/11 focus on counterterrorism against groups like al Qaeda and the Islamic State to competition between state adversaries. As the National Defense Strategy notes, “Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security.”1 This shift has significant implications for the U.S. military, since it indicates a need to improve U.S. capabilities to fight—and win—possible wars against China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea if deterrence fails. Though it is prudent to prepare for conventional—and even nuclear—war, the risks of conflict are likely to be staggering. Numerous war games and analyses of U.S. conflicts with Russia in the Baltics, China in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea, and North Korea on the Korean peninsula suggest the possibility of at least tens of thousands of dead and billions of dollars in economic damages. In addition, these conflicts could escalate to nuclear war, which might raise the number of dead to hundreds of thousands or even millions. According to one analysis, for example, a U.S. war with China could reduce China’s gross domestic product (GDP) by between 25 and 35 percent and the United States’ GDP by between 5 and 10 percent. The study also assessed that both countries could suffer substantial military losses to bases, air forces, surface naval forces, and submarines; significant political upheaval at home and abroad; and huge numbers of civilian deaths.2 These costs and risks will likely give Washington, Moscow, Beijing, Tehran, and even Pyongyang pause, raising several questions. Will these high costs deter the possibility of conventional and nuclear war? If so, what are the implications for the United States as it plans for a rise in inter-state competition? The Cold War offers a useful historical lens. NATO planners prepared for a possible Soviet and Warsaw Pact invasion of Western Europe. The U.S. military, for example, deployed forces to the Fulda Gap, roughly 60 miles outside of Frankfurt, Germany, as one of several possible invasion routes by Soviet and other Warsaw Pact forces. NATO also planned for nuclear war. The United States built up its nuclear arsenal and adopted strategies like mutually assured destruction (MAD). The concept of MAD assumed that a full-scale use of nuclear weapons by two or more opposing sides would cause the annihilation of both the attacker and the defender. The threat of such heavy costs deterred conflict, despite some close calls. During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the two superpowers nearly went to war after a U.S. U-2 aircraft took pictures of Soviet medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic nuclear missiles (MRBMs and IRBMs) under construction in Cuba. But Washington and Moscow ultimately assessed that direct conflict was too costly. Deterrence held. Instead, the United States and Soviet Union engaged in intense security competition at the unconventional level across Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. Both countries backed substate groups and states to expand their power and influence. Under the Reagan Doctrine, for example, the United States provided overt and covert assistance to anticommunist governments and resistance movements to roll back communist supporters. The Soviets did the same and supported states and substate actors across the globe. In addition, the Soviets adopted an aggressive, unconventional approach best captured in the phrase “active measures” or aktivnyye meropriatia. As used by the KGB, active measures included a wide range of activities designed to influence populations across the globe. The KGB established front groups, covertly broadcast radio and other programs, orchestrated disinformation campaigns, and conducted targeted assassinations. The Soviets used active measures as an offensive instrument of Soviet foreign policy to extend Moscow’s influence and power throughout the world, including in Europe. Unlike the Cold War, the United States confronts multiple state adversaries today—not one. As the National Defense Strategy argues, the United States is situated in “a security environment more complex and volatile than any we have experienced in recent memory” where “the central challenges to U.S. prosperity and security is the reemergence of long-term, strategic competition by what the National Security Strategy classifies as revisionist powers.” But based on the likely costs and risks of conventional and nuclear war with China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, much of the competition will likely be unconventional—and include what former U.S. State Department diplomat George Kennan referred to as “political warfare.” The term political warfare refers to the employment of military, intelligence, diplomatic, financial, and other means—short of conventional war—to achieve national objectives. It can include overt operations like public broadcasting and covert operations like psychological warfare and support to underground resistance groups.3 The United States’ adversaries today are already engaged in political warfare. Russia, for instance, utilizes a range of means to pursue its interests, such as technologically sophisticated offensive cyber programs, covert action, and psychological operations. Moscow has conducted overt operations like the use of RT and Sputnik, as well as semitransparent and covert efforts. It has also become increasingly active in supporting state and substate actors in countries like Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, and Libya to expand its influence in the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and even North Africa. Finally, Russia is attempting to exploit European and transatlantic fissures and support populist movements to undermine European Union and NATO cohesion, thwart economic sanctions, justify or obscure Russian actions, and weaken the attraction of Western institutions for countries on Russia’s periphery. Iran is using political warfare tools like propaganda, cyber attacks, and aid to substate proxies to support its security priorities, influence events and foreign perceptions, and counter threats. Tehran is also assisting state and substate actors in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, and Afghanistan. Iran supports Shia militia groups in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, and Houthi rebels in Yemen. In the South China Sea, China is pouring millions of tons of sand and concrete onto reefs, creating artificial islands. It is also conducting a sophisticated propaganda campaign, utilizing economic coercion, and using fleets of fishing vessels to solidify its assertion of territorial and resource rights throughout the Pacific. Finally, Beijing is targeting the U.S. government, its allies, and U.S. companies as part of a cyber-espionage campaign. With political warfare already alive and well with the United States’ state adversaries, there are several implications for U.S. defense strategy. First, U.S. policymakers need to be prepared for significant inter-state competition to occur at the unconventional level, since the costs and risks of conventional and nuclear war may be prohibitively high. This should involve thinking through trade-offs regarding force posture, procurement, acquisition, and modernization. A U.S. military that predominantly focuses on preparing for conventional or nuclear war with state competitors—by modernizing the nuclear triad, building more resilient space capabilities, acquiring more effective counter-space systems, equipping U.S. forces with high-technology weapons, and emphasizing professional military education (PME) to fight conventional wars—may undermine U.S. unconventional readiness and capabilities. Second, even organizations that already engage in some types of political warfare—such as U.S. Special Operations Command and the U.S. intelligence community—will need to continue shifting some of their focus from counterterrorism to political warfare against state adversaries. This might include, for example, providing more aid to the Baltic States to conduct an effective resistance campaign against unconventional action by Moscow. Or it might involve aiding proxies in countries like Syria and Yemen to counter Iranian-backed organizations. It could also include improving the border security capabilities and effectiveness of Ukrainian military and police units against Russian-backed rebels. Third, the United States should invest in resources and capabilities that allow the military and other U.S. government agencies to more effectively engage in political warfare—and to provide agencies with sufficient authorities to conduct political warfare. One example is improving capabilities to conduct aggressive, offensive cyber operations. Other examples might include advanced electronic attack capabilities, psychological warfare units, security force assistance brigades, and precision munitions. Recognizing that other powers routinely conduct political warfare, George Kennan encouraged U.S. leaders to disabuse themselves of the “handicap” of the “concept of a basic difference between peace and war” and to wake up to “the realities of international relations—the perpetual rhythm of struggle, in and out of war.” Kennan’s advice may be even more relevant today in such a competitive world.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Counter-terrorism
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, Europe, Asia, North Korea
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The United States, South Korea, Japan—and every other state affected by the stability and security of Northeast Asia—has a strong incentive to find a way to end North Korea's nuclear threat and its development and deployment of ICBMs. At the same time, no one can afford to forget that North Korea poses a much wider range of threats from its conventional forces and shorter-range missiles—particularly as it develops ballistic and cruise missiles with precision strike capabilities. U.S. diplomacy and strategy cannot afford to focus solely on nuclear weapons, particularly when North Korea has the option of developing biological weapons with the same lethality as nuclear weapons. The U.S. cannot afford to ignore the conventional threat that North Korea poses to South Korea—a threat that could inflict massive casualties on South Korean civilians as well as create a level of conventional war that could devastate the South Korean economy.
  • Topic: Security, Nuclear Weapons, Political stability, Biological Weapons
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Tom Karako
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Several decades ago, former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone once described his country as a “big aircraft carrier” from which to defend against Soviet aircraft.1 Although such an analogy fails to capture the richness and depth of the U.S-Japan alliance, it did say something important about Japan’s unique geographic and strategic position. Today’s air and missile threats in the Asia-Pacific region are different, as is the joint U.S.-Japanese defense posture to meet them. Given a handful of changes underway, however, one might instead say that Japan is shaping up to be a giant Aegis destroyer group of sorts. A vision of much more robust air and missile defense capability in the Asia-Pacific region hinges upon the forthcoming acquisition of Aegis Ashore sites in Japan. Japan’s intent to acquire two such sites was announced in December 2017, a decision supported by 66 percent of the Japanese population, according to one recent poll.2 But the potential significance of Japanese Aegis Ashore deployments has not yet been widely understood. Combined with military forces in other domains, these sites will be the foundation of more robust air and missile defenses against North Korea and form a base upon which to adapt to more sophisticated future threats, including China. Assuming the approval process for the foreign military sales comes along well, this development has broad implications for the United States and America’s allies.3 The road to more layered missile defense goes in part through Aegis Ashore, and the road to innovative Aegis Ashore deployments probably goes through Tokyo. The U.S. Navy’s Aegis Combat System has evolved considerably since the first Aegis ship deployed in 1984. Some 90 Aegis ships are currently operated by the United States, and five other countries have Aegis ships as well: Australia, Norway, South Korea, Spain, and Japan. The word “Aegis” refers to the shield of the ancient god Zeus, and Aegis ships have long provided fleet air defense, strike, and antisubmarine warfare. Over the past decade, 35 American and 4 Japanese Aegis ships have also acquired a ballistic missile defense mission. The most recent configurations are capable of executing the integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) mission, with simultaneous air defense and ballistic missile defense operations.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy, Missile Defense
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Anthony H. Cordesman
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: President Trump's cancellation of the summit with North Korea is a warning as to just how difficult it is to bring any kind of stability to the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia. It is also a warning that the U.S. cannot focus on the nuclear issue and ICBM, rather than the overall military balance in the Koreas and the impact that any kind of war fighting can have on the civil population of South Korea and the other states in Northeast Asia. The nuclear balance is an all too critical aspect of regional security, but it is only part of the story and military capability do not address the potential impact and cost of any given form of conflict.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy, Conflict
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Ralph A. Cossa, Brad Glosserman
  • Publication Date: 02-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Comparative Connections
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: A trifecta of international gatherings – the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Meeting in Beijing, the East Asia Summit (EAS) in Nay Pyi Taw, and the G-20 gathering in Brisbane – had heads of state from around the globe, including US President Barack Obama, flocking to the Asia-Pacific as 2014 was winding to a close. North Korea was not included in these confabs but its leaders (although not the paramount one) were taking their charm offensive almost everywhere else in an (unsuccessful) attempt to block a UN General Assembly resolution condemning Pyongyang's human rights record. More successful was Pyongyang's (alleged) attempt to undermine and embarrass Sony Studios to block the release of a Hollywood film featuring the assassination of Kim Jong Un.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: Asia, North Korea
  • Publication Date: 07-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: North Korea last week rejected South Korea’s invitation to attend the Seoul Defense Dialogue in September, denigrating the talks as “puerile.” In the same breath, it also rejected a proposal by National Assembly speaker Chung Ui-hwa for a meeting with his northern counterpart to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Korean Peninsula on Aug. 15. If you ask an Obama administration official about America’s “strategic patience” policy of non-dialogue with North Korea, he or she will tell you that the problem is not an unwillingness on the part of the United States to have dialogue. On the contrary, the Obama administration has tried every channel possible, from six-party talks to personal communications to secret trips, to jump-start a dialogue. But the regime in Pyongyang has rejected all of these.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Defense Policy, International Security
  • Political Geography: United States, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Victor D. Cha
  • Publication Date: 07-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: North Korea last week rejected South Korea’s invitation to attend the Seoul Defense Dialogue in September, denigrating the talks as “puerile.” In the same breath, it also rejected a proposal by National Assembly speaker Chung Ui-hwa for a meeting with his northern counterpart to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Korean Peninsula on Aug. 15. If you ask an Obama administration official about America’s “strategic patience” policy of non-dialogue with North Korea, he or she will tell you that the problem is not an unwillingness on the part of the United States to have dialogue. On the contrary, the Obama administration has tried every channel possible, from six-party talks to personal communications to secret trips, to jump-start a dialogue. But the regime in Pyongyang has rejected all of these.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: South Korea, North Korea, Korean Peninsula
  • Author: Brad Glosserman
  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The US extended deterrent in Northeast Asia is strong. US alliances with Japan and South Korea are each arguably in the best shape in years, with alliance modernization efforts proceeding in tandem with domestic adjustments to security policy that strengthen the foundation for cooperative action. Policy toward North Korea, historically a wedge between Washington and allied governments in the region, is largely aligned, and serving as a glue rather than a source of discord. This otherwise sunny outlook is darkened by the difficulties in the Seoul-Tokyo relationship. The (from a US perspective) obvious convergence of interests among the three governments is overshadowed by a lengthy and depressingly well-rehearsed list of problems. The second US-ROK-Japan Trilateral Extended Deterrence Dialogue, hosted by Pacific Forum CSIS and the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, with indirect support from the Project on Advanced Systems and Concepts for Countering WMD (PASCC) and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), explored ways to overcome those obstacles to enhanced cooperation. In an attempt to push the envelope, the 43 senior participants from the three countries joined 17 Pacific Forum Young Leaders (all attending in their private capacities) in discussions and a tabletop exercise that was designed to explore reactions to a nuclear contingency on the Korean Peninsula. The results were sobering and underscored the need for increased coordination and planning among the three governments to prepare for such a crisis in Northeast Asia.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Nuclear Power
  • Political Geography: Japan, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Victor D. Cha
  • Publication Date: 12-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: As a result of a speech delivered by Republic of Korea (ROK) president Park Geun- hye in Dresden, Germany, on March 28, 2014, the topic of unification of the Korean peninsula has been on the minds of many. This is, of course, not the first time that unification has been in the news. During the Cold War era, unification was defined as the absolute military victory of one side over the other. In Korean, this was known as “songgong t'ongil” or “p'ukch'in t'ongil” (“march north” or “unification by force”). In political science literature influenced by the European experience, it was defined as the perfect integration of the two countries. After the reunification of Germany on October 3, 1990, unification was seen as the economic and political absorption of one side by the other. And yet at other times, it was defined, by both North and South Korea, as the imperfect operation of one country, two systems. For a decade during the period of “sunshine” policy, 1997–2007, unification was defined as something to be avoided for generations. It was framed as an outcome that was too difficult to contemplate, too dangerous to suggest, and too expensive to afford.
  • Topic: Security, Economics, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: South Korea, North Korea, Germany
  • Author: Bruce Klingner
  • Publication Date: 09-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Washington Quarterly
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: For some Asian experts, Kim Jong-un's December 2013 purge of his uncle and éminence grise, Jang Song-taek, changed everything. Hopes that the young, Western-educated North Korean leader would initiate long-predicted reform were dashed, replaced by rising fears of instability in the nuclear-armed nation. For other analysts, the purge merely affirmed everything that had seemed so obvious since the coronation of Kim petit-fils, namely that he would maintain the policies of his predecessors, though in a more erratic and riskier manner. Regardless of who was right, what are the policy implications going forward?
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons
  • Political Geography: Asia, North Korea