Image by David Peterson from Pixabay
One significant impediment to realizing common objectives on the Korean peninsula is the history of strategic mistrust between the United States and the DPRK. While there have been several rounds of negotiations to resolve the long-standing issues that prevent the normalization of relations between the US and the DPRK, both sides have pervasive strategic mistrust of each other’s intentions. Many in the US policy community view the DPRK as a permanent bad actor, and view the DPRK’s ruling Kim dynasty as a predatory entity that seeks to extract wealth and security concessions from the international community through extortion.
What is needed at this point is to map the US policy community’s assumptions about North Korean intentions and behavior in the face of new evidence presented by the ongoing process of negotiations between the ROK, the US and the DPRK, to identify steps the DPRK could take to prove to the policy community that it is willing to make strategic changes. This project and paper will outline the US policy community’s assessment of the DPRK’s sincerity in the negotiation process—an assessment that is underpinned by the policy analysts’ assumptions about North Korean capabilities, intentions and national interests. In doing so, the policy community will have made a list of self-identified evidence of strategic change that is explicit, if not predictive. Sharing this list among experts may be helpful in spotting and interpreting changes in the future, toward the goal of building strategic trust.
This paper briefly and selectively covers the theory and literature that supports this project, explains the methodology of interaction with policy experts to generate and reality test a list of potential evidence that the DPRK is embarking on a process of strategic change or attempting to build strategic trust, reviews existing quantitative data against the experts’ assumptions, and concludes with policy recommendations.