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date: 30 November 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Despite its reputation as an “aberration of history,” North Korea is, like most states, driven by the pursuit of survival, prosperity, and prestige. Preconceptions and political agendas hinder the objective study of North Korea’s approach to foreign relations, which is best understood in terms of the dilemma Pyongyang faces in trying to achieve wealth, power, and status simultaneously. By looking at the process of foreign policymaking both statically in terms of structures and actors, as well as dynamically in terms of key relationships with South Korea, China, and the United States, the DPRK’s distinctive—but not anomalous—brand of international behavior comes into focus. On the basis of that descriptive view, new modes of enhancing cooperation and reducing conflict, and actively helping North Korea resolve its own “security complex,” become conceivable.

Keywords: North Korea, Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un, fragmentation, self-reliance, military-first, nuclear deterrence, inter-Korean rivalry, Sino-Korean interdependence

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