North Korea’s nuclear program has made significant technological advances this year, including the demonstration of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and a hydrogen bomb test. An ICBM tipped with a thermonuclear warhead would give North Korea a capability that it has long sought, namely to hold U.S. territory at risk. Is Pyongyang’s goal simply to deter U.S. attacks on or invasion of North Korea, or does Pyongyang have other political or military goals for its strengthening nuclear arsenal? Will North Korea continue its historical cycle of provocations against the United States and its allies?
While the United States must deal with the reality of North Korea being able to threaten its homeland with ballistic missiles now, regional allies in Japan and South Korea have faced this threat for decades. This situation has driven speculation that Seoul and Tokyo could develop their own nuclear arsenals, but neither have done so, partly due to alliance considerations. Could recent advancements by North Korea or fluctuations in alliance dynamics change the debate on nuclearization in Japan or South Korea? U.S. nonproliferation policy successfully dealt with nuclear flirtation by its East Asian allies in the past, but are those lessons still applicable now?
This talk will address North Korea’s nuclear strategy, how possessing nuclear weapons could affect North Korean behavior, and what type of nuclear state North Korea is. It then will look at the domestic debates in Japan and South Korea regarding nuclear weapons and alliance signaling between the United States, Japan, and South Korea.
James E. Platte
Assistant Professor with the U.S. Air Force Center for Unconventional Weapons Studies (CUWS) at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, USA
James E. Platte is an assistant professor with the U.S. Air Force Center for Unconventional Weapons Studies (CUWS) at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, where his teaching and research focuses on U.S. nuclear deterrence and counterproliferation policies. Prior to starting at CUWS in February 2017, he was an intelligence research specialist with the U.S. Department of Energy. He conducted research on civil nuclear issues in East Asia as a 2015 Asia studies visiting fellow at the East-West Center in Washington, DC, a 2014 Sasakawa Peace Foundation fellow at Pacific Forum CSIS in Honolulu, Hawaii, and as a 2012 Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow in Japan.
He completed his PhD in international relations at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in February 2013, and he was a 2011-12 Stanton Nuclear Security Predoctoral Fellow with the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Dr. Platte also has experience working on nuclear proliferation issues with the U.S. Department of Defense, the National Nuclear Security Administration, and the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control.
He holds a BS and MS in nuclear engineering from the University of Michigan and an MA in science, technology, and public policy from George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.