The US-North Korean asymmetrical security dilemma: Past the point of nuclear no return?

Erwin Tan, Jae Jeok Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The bulk of literature on the security dilemma has examined the phenomenon within the context of rivalry between great powers of roughly equal strength (for instance, the United States-Soviet nuclear arms race). Yet no study has examined the implications of power asymmetry between a strong power and a weak one when they are facing the security dilemma in their interaction. This manuscript shall examine how the asymmetry of interaction in the United States-North Korean security dilemma has presented repeated obstacles for the United States in seeking the denuclearization of North Korea. The asymmetry of their rivalry has significant implications for how Washington and Pyongyang view one another in their interaction. This asymmetry has created challenges for Washington as well as Pyongyang, as illustrated through this empirical case study’s analysis of how successive United States White House administrations since 1993 have responded to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. In this regard, it is possible the asymmetry of their interaction has become so deeply internalized that North Korea is, effectively, past a “point of no return” insofar as its nuclear program is concerned.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-209
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Area Studies Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jun 1

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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