Cover: Analyzing North Korea's Decision-Making Process on its Nuclear Weapons Programs with the Rational Choice and Cognitive Choice Models

Analyzing North Korea's Decision-Making Process on its Nuclear Weapons Programs with the Rational Choice and Cognitive Choice Models

Published Aug 26, 2010

by Ki-Tae Park

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This dissertation analyzes North Korea’s Decision-making process regarding its nuclear programs with two choice models — Rational Choice and Cognitive Choice — and suggest effective/adaptive/robust deterrence strategy for the ROK-US combined forces. Rational Choice Model (RCM), endorsed by expected utility theory, suggests that North Korean leadership should adopt the option maximizing its expected utility in its nuclear confrontations with its “opponents,” while Cognitive Choice Model (CCM), endorsed by prospect theory, anticipates that Pyongyang would adopt the option meeting its reference point, heavily influenced by his domains of actions (either the domain of gains or losses). Sharing the same root and method of calculating utility, they have one explicit difference in weighting probability assigned to each outcome — the RCM weights the value and probability assigned to each outcome in a linear manner, while the CCM does in a non-linear manner depending on the range of probability, thus resulting in different prediction. According to the “Hypothesis Testing” using North Korea’s four nuclear-related provocations (1st Nuclear Crisis 1993-1994, 2nd Nuclear Crisis 2002-2003, 1st Nuclear Test 10/2006, 2nd Nuclear Test 5/2009), unlike the traditional wisdom, the CCM is more explanatory than the RCM in explaining Pyongyang’s strategic behaviors on its nuclear programs. Based on this testing result, this dissertation suggests coercive strategies (mainly composed of punishment, risk, decapitation and denial strategy) exploiting the unique characteristics of air power as an alternative deterrence strategy to effectively deter North Korea in the future because it is best fitted for influencing the decisionmaking process of North Korea.

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This document was submitted as a dissertation in June 2010 in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the doctoral degree in public policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. The faculty committee that supervised and approved the dissertation consisted of Bruce W. Bennett (Chair), Jefferson Marquis, and Chaibong Hahm.

This publication is part of the RAND dissertation series. Pardee RAND dissertations are produced by graduate fellows of the Pardee RAND Graduate School, the world's leading producer of Ph.D.'s in policy analysis. The dissertations are supervised, reviewed, and approved by a Pardee RAND faculty committee overseeing each dissertation.

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