Designing and Evaluating Conventional Arms Control Measures

The Case of the Korean Peninsula

by Yong-Sup Han

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The governments of South and North Korea have recently made proposals with mixed motives for arms control in the peninsula: either to settle a 45-year-old military confrontation with sincerity or to repeat past propaganda wars with each side blaming the other for posing threats. The analytic communities of the two Koreas have not systematically analyzed the effects of arms control proposals on the security and the stability of the peninsula, nor have they suggested coherent ways to relate arms control measures to security problems. This study attempts to design and evaluate effective arms control measures in relation to specific Korean security problems and arms control objectives that the South Korean government should undertake. The study takes a combined approach of qualitative analysis and military simulation. Three qualitative criteria derived from case studies on Korean and European arms control are used to examine whether these measures are legally binding, verifiable, and negotiable. One quantifiable criterion is used to test against the base case scenario (a one-day surprise attack by North Korea), to explore whether arms control measures will stabilize or destabilize the military status quo on the peninsula in terms of North Korea's extent of penetration in actual war situations. Four alternative measures are derived from the analysis: (1) confidence and security building measures (CSBMs); (2) establishment of an asymmetric non-deployment zone (NDZ); (3) reduction of the joint U.S.-South Korean "Team Spirit" exercises and North Korea's forward deployed forces; and (4) reduction of South Korean, U.S., and North Korean forces. Findings indicate that establishment of the NDZ and North Korean unilateral reduction can best achieve the goal of South Korean arms control. These two measures enhance stability, while a unilateral reduction or suspension of Team Spirit and CSBMS may only reduce military stability. CSBMs and a scale-down of Team Spirit are more easily verifiable than the NDZ and mutual reduction measures, because the latter measures would require more intrusive verification. Arms negotiations should be led by tight conditionality of one side's concession on the other side's concession. However, South Korea's concession (e.g., reduction of Team Spirit and withdrawal of U.S. forces) should guard against negative consequences of these measures on security and stability of the entire peninsula. Moreover, confidence building measures should be negotiated in one channel for negotiating reduction measures, since separating talks on these two issues is nearly impossible.

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