BC Expert: North Korea
Professor of Political Science Robert S. Ross
Professor Ross' research focuses on Chinese security policy, nationalism and Chinese defense policy, East Asian security, and U.S.-China relations. Ross is currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Committee for U.S.-China Relations and a senior advisor to the Institute for American Studies, Shanghai. He has testified before various Senate and House committees and the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee and he advises various U.S. government agencies. He is the author/co-author of several books, including Chinese Security Policy: Structure, Power, and Politics; Negotiating Cooperation: The United States and China, 1969-1989, and Great Wall and Empty Fortress: China’s Search for Security. His books and articles have been translated in China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and various European countries.
“North Korea’s nuclear test is part of its long-term program to develop a reliable nuclear capability. But before it can actually deploy a nuclear weapon that could challenge U.S. security, it will have to develop the technology to miniaturize warheads and to produce intercontinental missiles. It is far from possessing such technologies.
“Since 2013, China and the United States have cooperated to constrain North Korea’s nuclear program. They have cooperated on the imposition of sanctions and in isolating North Korea throughout Asia and the world. China’s response to this most recent nuclear test expressed its growing frustration and intolerance of North Korea’s challenge to Chinese interests and to regional stability. These efforts have clearly been unsuccessful. North Korea now possesses a small stockpile of nuclear weapons.
“But even as China sanctions and isolates North Korea, it does not advocate regime change, concerned that the consequences of the collapse of the North Korean regime could be worse for Chinese border security and stability on the Korean Peninsula and throughout East Asia. It uses a combination of bilateral assistance and border trade to enable gradual change in North Korean economics, politics, and society. South Korean leaders share China’s concerns for regime instability and its interest in economic cooperation with North Korea.
“The most reasonable expectation for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is gradual political change in North Korea and the unification of North Korea and South Korea. But this will be a glacial process, insofar as the North Korean leadership uses its overwhelming political power to prevent rapid domestic change and neither China nor South Korea would welcome political instability in North Korea.”
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