#geopolitical fridays: Nuclear geopolitics – the case of North Korea


To conclude nuclear week, let’s have a look as to what role nuclear weapons play in regional conflicts these days.

Despite the fact that nuclear weapons have not been directly employed as weapons since the end of the Second World War, they continue to shape the dynamics of many conflicts around the world. Their effect is many-fold: They push direct conflict among nuclear weapons states on to other playing fields, and they limit the choice regarding the mode of confrontation in certain regional conflicts (for example, ruling out direct military intervention). And under certain circumstances, they offer an effective bargaining tool, thereby allowing countries to punch far above their geopolitical weight.

The classic example would be North Korea. The geopolitical importance of the Korean
peninsula (bordering on China and Russia, and indirectly, on the US via
American allies such as South Korea and Japan) ideally positions the North Korean regime to engage in nuclear blackmail in order to ensure its survival and
to extract economic aid. 

Beginning of February this year, Le Monde posted an excellent video on its site providing historic background to explain Pyongyang’s push to acquire nuclear weapons and to engage in a policy of provocation and confrontation.

One can imagine that nuclear blackmail and nuclear posturing will continue in our hyper-competitive and interconnected world, as the benefits of possessing nuclear weapons, also for non-state actors, could outweigh the risks and costs associated with acquiring them.

Johanna M

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