“Pyongyang portrays nuclear weapons as its most effective way to deter the threat from the United States,” the Department of Defense says in a newly disclosed report to Congress on North Korean security policy.
“North Korea’s primary strategic goal is perpetual Kim family rule via the simultaneous development of its economy and nuclear weapons program — a two-pronged policy known as byungjin.” See Military and Security Developments Involving the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, 2017, Office of the Secretary of Defense, February 2018.
The DoD assessment presents an uncompromisingly hostile North Korea that is committed to nuclear weapons. The report provides no reason to anticipate a reconsideration or a reorientation of the country’s nuclear policies, though that is the entire premise of the upcoming June 12 summit meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The report, generated in February 2018, has not been posted online by the Department of Defense. (Update: now posted by DoD.) It was first reported last week by Anthony Capaccio of Bloomberg. See Pentagon Says North Korea’s Regime Has Staked Its Survival on Nuclear Weapons, May 17.
“North Korea ultimately seeks the capability to strike the continental United States with a nuclear-armed ICBM,” the Pentagon report said. “This pursuit supports North Korea’s strategy of deterring the United States as well as weakening U.S. alliances in the region by casting doubt on the U.S.commitment to extended deterrence. In the long term, North Korea may see nuclear weapons as permitting more frequent coercive behavior and may further increase Kim Jong Un’s tolerance for risk.”
The DoD report, required by statute and reflecting developments only through December 15, 2017, is largely consistent with previous DoD reports on the subject. It includes some new material on North Korea’s ballistic missile tests, cyber capabilities, special operations forces, and other topics.