Is There a Need for an Update of the Theory of Deterrence? US Failure in North Korea

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Abstract This article will answer why the United States failed in deterring North Korea from its development of nuclear weapons focusing on the basic logic of deterrence and identifying a historical deficiency. This is related to the failure to understand that in addition to the predictability of punishment, in case of unwanted behaviour of the target of deterrence, the non-punishment of non-aggressive action also needs to be made predictable. Focusing on this deficiency in the relationship of deterrence between the United States and North Korea, this article answers the question of why American deterrence has failed to prevent the emergence of North Korea as a de facto nuclear weapons power. The general proof of the failure of post-Cold War deterrence uses statistics of conflict, while the investigation of American deterrence vis-à-vis North Korea will use theory-guided process tracing based on evidence from declassified, primarily American, documents. Keywords

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
JournalAsian International Studies Review
Issue number54
Early online date2 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2022


  • deterrence
  • North Korea
  • United States
  • nuclear weapons
  • sanctions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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