The years. From the testing of nuclear weapons to

nuclear crisis in the DPRK is a crisis that has been in the making for many
years. From the testing of nuclear weapons to the threat to essentially destroy
the United States, the DPRK is constantly proving to be a wholly self-interested
state. Diplomacy and cooperation do not exist in the eyes of Kim Jong Un, nor
does humanity or empathy, so much so that many country’s diplomatic relations
with the DPRK are slowly declining, including even that of China. In this essay
I will be discussing, through realism, how the one and only goal of the DPRK is
to have ultimate power over the world, and how national interest is the only interest of the DPRK. No state, not
even the United States, can stop the DPRK from testing their nuclear missiles
or from threatening the rest of the world for their own national security.

six nuclear tests that have taken place over the past eleven years have been a
way for the DPRK to show their power and security on a global scale. Before the
first nuclear test was taken on October 9th 2006, the United Nations
Security Council had released a statement that proclaimed: “The Security
Council urges the DPRK not to undertake such a test and to refrain from any
action that might aggravate tension, to work on the resolution of
non-proliferation concerns and to facilitate a peaceful and comprehensive
solution through political and diplomatic efforts.” Despite efforts from the US
and United Nations Security Council, three days later the DPRK announced that
it had tested a nuclear weapon, successfully. Through a realist lens, this
first test was a demonstration to show the power and national security of the
DPRK and to disregard any diplomatic advances that the US and United Nations Security
Council had attempted. Following each nuclear test, the United Nations Security
Council would tighten sanctions. With many resolutions being implemented to no
real effect, the DPRK would continue to test nuclear weapons over the years.
After the nuclear test in September of 2017, the United Nations Security
Council held an emergency meeting. Even Russia and China oppose of the DPRK’s
nuclear testing, with US Defence Secretary James Mattis proclaiming there would
be a “massive military response” if the DPRK should continue threatening or
endangering the US. However, with China and Russia disagreeing to many of the
sanctions implemented by the United Nations Security Council, the DPRK has more
leverage for continuing these vast measures, with the sanctions yet again
coming to little effect. The willingness of the DPRK to thrive as a powerful
and dangerous territory shows that no amount of threats from the US or the
United Nations Security Council will stop them from threatening the world with
nuclear weapons. Everything done is in the interest of the DPRK, as is clear
when viewing the situation from a realism perspective.

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between China and the DPRK have remained diplomatic over the years, although a
decline in diplomacy is apparent since the DPRK began the nuclear testing
program. With China being the DPRK’s biggest trade partner(85% of all imports
in 2015 from China) and one of its only ‘allies’, they are essentially one of
the only countries that would have some chance to diplomatically resolve the
nuclear crisis. Although, this would be highly unlikely as the DPRK, particularly
after Kim Jong Un has taken power, has continuously expressed it’s desire to
continue on with it’s nuclear programme. China, along with Russia, are not
making matters much easier for the UN or the United States in resolving the
nuclear crisis. They tend to disapprove of many sanctions which have been
imposed on the DPRK over the years. Vladimir Putin described some of the
tougher sanctions as “useless”, with China reiterating that rather than
threatening and imposing tougher sanctions, matters should be handled in a
peaceful manner in order to prevent further tensions. As peaceful means of
solving the crisis have not worked in the past, for instance sanctions being
lifted in return for there to be a cease of all nuclear activity, China’s
opinion on the matter has been of no positive effect for eliminating the
crisis. The DPRK is a realist state and therefore no amount of peaceful
negotiating will stop them from ‘protecting’ their country with nuclear

six party talks have been an international attempt at denuclearising the DPRK
once and for all. Although the DPRK were originally one of the six parties,
they withdrew from the talks in 2009 after stating that they “will never again take part in such
talks and will not be bound by any agreement reached at the talks”. The United
Nations Security Council yet again imposed heavier sanctions. The DPRK also
informed the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEI) inspectors that they were
no longer cooperating with the IAEI and to cease inspections. Even after diplomatic
approaches that the United Nations have attempted towards the DPRK, they still
choose to continue with nuclear programmes and are always breaking the code of
conduct. The words of key realist thinker Thomas Hobbes resonate with the state
of the DPRK, “I put for the general inclination
of all mankind, a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that
ceaseth only in death”. The goal of the DPRK is supreme power, and only that.
They will cooperate with no man or state, whether they are being offered a fair
deal or being sanctioned.

The United Nations plays a huge role in the
efforts that have, and are being made, to try to combat the nuclear crisis of
the DPRK. The first sanction imposed on the DPRK, ‘Resolution 1718’ (2006), “to
prohibit the DPRK from conducting nuclear tests or launching ballistic
missiles”, had a negative response from the North Korean UN liaison: “If the
United States increases pressure on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,
the DPRK will continue to take physical countermeasures considering it as a
declaration of war”. A response of this sort shows the unwillingness to be
cooperative. A declaration of war based solely on the fact that they were
prohibited to launch ballistic missiles is a demonstration of the three S’s of
realism- statism, survival and self-help. The many sanctions that the United
Nations Security Council has put into effect against the DPRK has not had much
of an impact, as the DPRK continues to test more nuclear missiles every few
years. Resolutions 2371 and 2321 for example, were passed in November of 2016
and August of 2017. Although through these sanctions the exports of many goods
such as zinc, coal and seafood were banned, the DPRK still break code of
conduct, for instance, through the missile launches towards Japanese territory.
In order to protect their own country from losing the ability to test and
launch missiles, they would go to any lengths, including war, in order to
remain in control of their weapons of mass destruction.

The confrontational relations between the DPRK
and the United States does not make matters any easier to come to a diplomatic
solution for the nuclear crisis. If anything, the hostile relations between the
two states makes the DPRK even more irate, and willing to strike back. With
George W. Bush labelling the DPRK in his state of the union address as an ‘axis
of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world’, China cannot come to terms
with the US in which way to approach the situation. Whilst China and the US are
disagreeing on whether to peacefully negotiate or to implement sanctions, the
DPRK are preparing more nuclear weapons and testing them. Along with the UN,
the United States have imposed sanctions to restrict economic activities.
Although the United States has lifted certain sanctions in the past in return
for the DPRK to cease all nuclear testing and weapon advancement, they
repeatedly continue to disrespect these agreements, as they are a state of
non-cooperation and self-help. Coming to an agreement and then completely disregarding
said agreement shows the self-seeking nature of the DPRK. Although being a part
of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the DPRK continued to develop a uranium enrichment programme going completely against the regulations of
the treaty. Just as the theory of realism states about countries being
self-interested, the DPRK is a state that is so self-interested that it pays no
attention to the consequences that its actions have on other states,
organisations or people. The DPRK does not respect the concept of an agreement
or a treaty, and disregards any diplomatic advances that are offered to it.

With human rights being a major issue in the
DPRK, arguably one of the worst countries in the world in terms of human
rights, it would most definitely never care to negotiate with other states. If
they do not care enough about their own citizens, they will not care for other
state’s opinions or needs. Hundreds of thousands of people, including children,
are held in prison camps where they are put through forced labour, starvation
and even public executions. With this being a daily norm for the DPRK, there is
no surprise that the nuclear weapons programme poses no moral issues for the
state. The DPRK cares more about its own power and protection, and putting all
of its resources into developing nuclear missiles and weaponry that there is
absolutely no empathy or rights given to its own people. The need for the
state’s own military and weapon’s protection over human rights is a view of
realism in practice.

The dictatorship of the DPRK does not help with
the ongoing nuclear crisis. As each new generation takes the top seat, the
nuclear weapons programme takes a step forward. From the very beginning of the
Kim dynasty with Kim Il Sung, there has been a continuous need for nuclear
protection against the United States. At this point, protection against the
United States and other western countries is part of North Korean culture, and
is something that will never be taken lightly by the DPRK. Under the first Kim
Il Sung’s rule, the beginning of the DPRK’s nuclear weapons activity began with
the help from communist friend the Soviet Union. It was Kim Jong Il who then
brought the nuclear weapons programme to a new level. He ignored efforts from
the Bush administration to destroy the DPRK’s nuclear programme, and then used
the United States distraction with the war in Iraq to gather enough nuclear
fuel from his main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon to manufacture fuel for a number
of weapons. The desperation that Kim Jong Il had for the DPRK to protect itself
from the United States with these weapons is a clear example of realism. Kim
Jong Il’s efforts with advancing the nuclear programme in order to maintain a
high level of national security is an example of self-help within realism. Now
with Kim Jong Un in power, the nuclear weapons programme has expanded to an
unimaginable level. With Kim stating that he will begin: “a
new strategic line on carrying out economic construction and building nuclear
armed forces simultaneously”, there is no room for question that the
importance of security through nuclear weapons and treachery is one of the most
important subjects for him. For Kim Jong Un, sovereignty is essential in making
the DPRK prosper and it is of course sovereignty that makes him the powerful
dictator that he is. He has managed to test eighty-four missiles since assuming power.
This figure is more than double the amount that his father and grandfather
tested. From these facts, Kim Jong Un makes it more difficult than ever for the
likes of the UN or other countries, such as the United States, to be able to
deal with this crisis. He is more determined than his father and grandfather to
ensure that the nuclear missiles remain a key focus of the DPRK, and the reason
for this again being linked back to some of the key components in the theory of
realism: self-help and the desire to protect one’s own state, no matter what
the consequences may be. Kim wants to protect his state and it is his state
which is the only thing that he cares
to protect. So much so, that there is nothing- no sanctions, threats or even
attacks that can stop him.

Essentially, survival is one of the top
reasons for the DPRK’s ongoing nuclear weapons programme. Being a realist
state, the protection of the DPRK from potential attacks from the likes of the
United States is of utmost importance. After Donald Trump’s statement in which
he claimed it possible to ‘totally destroy’ the DPRK, Kim Jong Un made a
statement and said “Now that Trump has denied the existence of and insulted me
and my country in front of the eyes of the world and made the most ferocious
declaration of a war in history that he would destroy (the DPRK), we will
consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding, highest level of
hardline countermeasure in history,” Continuing with “Whatever Trump might have
expected, he will face results beyond his expectation.” Here is a prime example
of Kim Jong Un verbally retaliating after being threatened by the United States
to take away the power of the DPRK. The defensiveness of his statement is an
indication of the serious nature of the DPRK in terms of keeping their country
secure and powerful.  Not only will the
United States’ threats anger the DPRK, rather than solve the crisis, but it
will also most definitely push them to eventually retaliate.

In conclusion, nothing that has been done up
until this point by the United States, the UN or any other country has solved
the nuclear crisis in any way. No amount of sanctions have had any impact, nor
have any intergovernmental talks and meetings done the situation any favours.
The DPRK is a state which wholly prides itself on its nuclear weapons and its
‘great leader’, and will stop at nothing to protect itself by means of its
nuclear programme. The words of Hans Morgenthau resonates perfectly with the purpose
of the DPRK’s need for nuclear weapons: “International politics, like all
politics, is a struggle for power”. The whole reason behind this nuclear crisis
is for power, and nothing that anyone does, whether it be the United Nations,
the United States or any other country, can stop the DPRK from doing what they
have been continuing to do since the 1950’s.







Ian Jeffries: Contemporary North Korea: A
Guide to Economic and Political Developments 2009, page 177, 482

Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan 1651, chapter 11
page 64

Hans Morgenthau: Politics Among Nations (1978
edition), page 29