North Korea in the 1990s

Implications for the Future of the U.S.-South Korea Security Alliance

by Kongdan Oh

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This Note assesses the implications of change for North Korea, the U.S.-South Korea security alliance, and the stability of Northeast Asia. The Note finds that in dealing with its economic plight, political weakness, and diplomatic isolation, the North Korean regime faces a dilemma: remain in power (at least in the short term) by deflecting or suppressing domestic and international challenges, or engage in reform that could threaten the Kims' hold on power. Although the regime has leaned toward the former, there are signs North Korea is looking abroad for help, which argues for the United States continuing to engage North Korea in dialogue on issues of interest to both governments. The U.S.-South Korea relationship will change in the years ahead, with the United States needing to see and treat South Korea as a more equal partner and needing to continue to reduce its military forces in the South both to reflect a diminishing North Korean threat and to respect South Korean nationalistic sentiments.

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