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Addressing the Threat to U.S National Interests and Security Posed by North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Program

The illegal and careless North Korean nuclear weapons program, spearheaded by Kim Jong Un, poses substantial concerns and threats to the American national security, and that of United States’ allies. Kim Jong has repeatedly defied the UN’s warning to stand down, and as a result, he has received global backlash for it. During Trump’s era as president, he did little to address these security concerns; he only made careless and contradictory announcements regarding the issue. Trump’s actions were not only risky and counterproductive, they led to a higher risk of making mistakes on the Korean Peninsula. Moreover, Trump wasted a perfect opportunity to force North Korea into diplomatic discussions about its nuclear weapons program. At present, there are no direct and clear policy resolutions to the threat posed by North Korea (Magsamen et al.). A significant portion of the North Korean economy has developed due to investments in nuclear weapons, and thus the government claims that the program is vital for their survival. However, the United States government has discouraged North Korea’s nuclear weapons program thus containing it for years to come and preventing another cataclysmic war on the Korean Peninsula. This paper provides three policy recommendations that address the threat to the United States national interests and security posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, thus reassuring America’s allies of U.S’s commitment to deter this threat.

The first policy recommendation is aggressive diplomacy. As stated earlier, there are no clear and direct solutions to the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. However, there are responsible ways to approach this issue. Stability can be achieved through the implementation of carefully constructed and well thought out strategies that reassure American allies, deter North Korea’s plans, and curb their illegal finances. Diplomacy plays a crucial role in resolving the North Korean crisis (Bennett et al.). However, Trump escalated the situation by publicly declaring that he disdained any kind of diplomatic talks. He contradicted his own office by denying the secretary of state’s comments about trying a diplomatic approach to the North Korean nuclear weapons threat. Trump referred to diplomacy as a “recipe for failure.” However, now that Biden is in office, he has a responsibility to actively pursue diplomatic talks which could de-escalate the situation and bring Kim Jong Un back to the negotiating table. These negotiations will be more effective when supported by military capability. The diplomatic negotiation process should follow three steps: de-escalating the tensions between the United States and North Korea and opening convenient communication channels, shifting the dynamic from escalation cycles towards policies that prevent North Korea’s reckless behavior, and finally, addressing the long-term situation on the Korean Peninsula.

There are very few diplomatic ties between the United States and North Korea. Due to the limited communication channels, misunderstandings between the two sides persists, which often result in wrong calculations that result in conflict (Hilpert, and Meier). It is important to maintain open communication; the United States does not need to intervene only when the tensions are high. These communications must be often so that any misunderstandings are sorted before they escalate into high tensions. Negotiations should recommend a confidence roadmap for several steps that North Korea could observe, accompanied by reciprocal actions taken by the US and its allies. There has to be a consensus between the two countries; when North Korea gives up one aspect of their program, the United States must be willing to offer something in return. Waiting for the tensions to escalate does not provide a solid foundation upon which to discuss important issues such as denuclearization and negotiating a peace treaty. Still, the US and its allies must pursue policies that lead to that very end. Peace discussions must first be conducted with Japan and South Korea, followed by China. This will help to understand the needs, interests and main security concerns of each party, thus creating a ground for renewed negotiations.

The second policy recommendation is active assurance and smart deterrence. Successful diplomacy can only be achieved through the implementation of strategies that include the active reassurance of American allies and smart deterrence of Kim Jong Un’s reckless and illegal actions. However, when messages are poorly communicated. America’s deterrence strategies will prove to be counterproductive. Although the US has a strong military, with many soldiers committed to liberation and freedom, its strength does not lie in the number of troops deployed in crisis-torn place. The strength lies in the shared values, coordination and rust among allies. Major cities such as Seoul and Tokyo, which are also affected by the North Korean nuclear weapons program should be a part of the negotiation discussions so that all parties can coordinate communication and policy. This can be achieved through consistent trilateral discussions between the US, South Korea and Japan (Lee, and Moon). More importantly, the US must ensure that it reassures its allies that Kim Jong Un cannot separate America from its security obligations to its allies, a deep-seated objective of North Korea’s government. Public announcements suggesting the willingness of the US to sacrifice a region’s wellbeing to pursue its own interests could result in fatal consequences for Asia and other global regions.

The United States military should ensure that they conduct systematic operations and military exercises to ensure that they are always ready, should the crisis escalate. Furthermore, it ensures that American allies maintain their confidence in America’s ability to contain North Korea’s reckless actions. Strategic context is also essential and due to the fluctuating tensions between the US and North Korea, some military operations could be miscalculations that spark the crisis up all over again (Lee, and Moon). For instance, the US conducted an operation in which a B-1 bomber and allied South Korean fighter jets probed international airspace. This action might be misunderstood by the North Korean government, thus causing them to accelerate its nuclear policies, endangering the neighboring nations and the whole world in general. There are significant risks related to a mix of rhetoric and soaring American operations. The US is well-known as a nation capable of combining rhetoric and escalated operations. Therefore, the DoD must carefully consider its methods of weighing risk and miscalculating readiness to intervene. These policies are aimed at assuring American allies that they have the situation under control, through the deterrence of reckless nuclear activity that could be catastrophically detrimental for a significant portion of the global population.

The last policy is excluding and isolating North Korea from the global economy. The best leverage that the US has on North Korea is the ability to increase economic pressures that subsequently increase the costs incurred by Pyongyang in the maintenance of its weapons trajectory. Pressures applied through sanctions are not enough to convince Kim Jong Un to participate in diplomatic discussions. However, they increase the chances that he will discuss with the UN and agree to provide more tools to the US through which they can create he basis for future diplomatic discussions. This could also reduce North Korea’s access to foreign financial aid and technology parts for its nuclear programs. Economic sanctions that isolate North Korea from the global economy are effective in weakening the regime’s global position, thus putting the US in a more powerful position regarding containment or diplomacy. North Korea does not live in isolation; indeed, the country is more dependent on international resources and economy than in any other time in its history (Goodby). Other nations have realized some vulnerabilities ha arise due to this dependence in international trade, and they are exploiting every opportunity they get.

Although UN sanctions have limited North Korea’s power since 2006, it was not until 2017 that these sanctions began asserting economic pressures on the country. Although there were restrictions on the regime’s power, some countries, particularly China, did not follow through. This created many opportunities for Kim Jong Un to evade UN sanctions. Indeed, in 2016, the country experienced a 5% increase in international trade. Furthermore, the domestic GDP grew by approximately 4%. To adjust to the restrictions that existed before 2017, Kim Jong Un allowed the entry of private firms into the country and also allowed business and political powerhouses to make profits from business and technological innovations. North Korea was able to evade the sanctions and subsequently generated economic growth and also brought in foreign modern technology that supports the nation’s nuclear weapons program. Now, under a new administration, the United States should develop economic policies that isolate North Korea from global markets, so that it can restrict its development of nuclear weapons.


Bennett, Bruce W et al. Countering The Risks Of North Korean Nuclear Weapons.

Goodby, James. “North Korea: The Problem That Won’T Go Away”. Brookings, 2003,

Hilpert, Hanns Günther, and Oliver Meier. “Facets Of The North Korea Conflict”. Stiftung Wissenschaft Und Politik (SWP), 2018,

Lee, Jung-Hoon, and Chung-In Moon. “The North Korean Nuclear Crisis Revisited: The Case For A Negotiated Settlement”. Security Dialogue, vol 34, no. 2, 2003, pp. 135-151. SAGE Publications,

Magsamen, Kelly et al. “A Responsible Approach To North Korea”. Www.Americanprogress.Org, 2017,


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