Task Forces


Tackling a Nuclear-Armed North Korea: Getting It Right a Priori (Deterrence, Technology, Geopolitics)

Hristijan Ivanovski

North Korea’s strategic assertiveness driven by its enduring aspirations to own a more sophisticated and survivable nuclear ICBM capability has recently generated a great deal of concern, particularly in civilian circles. However, despite Pyongyang’s presumed desire to possess a less theoretical capability to strike strategic targets as appealing as the District of Columbia, Yellowstone National Park, and the San Andreas Fault, for now the possibility of a surprise North Korean nuclear attack remains extremely remote, not to say unimaginable. The reason is fairly evident: a mix of defensive rationality, technological constraints, and regional geopolitics. Based on these three cardinal and largely verifiable factors, the Pentagon and its U.S. interagency counterparts should come up with a well-tailored, case-adaptive deterrence and containment strategy against the North, founded on indispensable hard-power countermeasures. [Author’s Note: I wholeheartedly thank Dr. James Fergusson, Canada’s preeminent ballistic missile defense expert, for his support and indispensable advice in the course of preparing this article. My express gratitude also goes to Mr. William (Bill) Begley, a former U.S. Air Force intelligence officer and State Department official, Dr. Joseph S. Gordon of the National Intelligence University, and Dr. Lasha Tchantouridzé of Norwich University, for their selfless assistance in the prepublication