Responding to North Korean Missile Capability: A Security Dilemma


In the face of North Korea’s growing weapons capabilities, South Korea and the United States reached an agreement that would allow South Korea to triple the range of its ballistic missiles.  Under the revised agreement, South Korea can deploy missiles up to 500 miles—which could hit any target in North Korea—and use drones that carry up to 2.5 tons.  In response, North Korea announced it had missiles that could reach the US mainland, and felt freer to test a long-range missile.

It is hard to determine North Korea’s missile capabilities, but according to military experts, the North has missiles that can reach as far as Guam, a US territory.  In 2011, former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates reported that North Korea was within five years of deploying a missile capable of hitting the US.

Tension on the peninsula is now high, as North Korea claimed that the US-South Korea agreement “poured cold water on all efforts to stabilize the situation on the Korean Peninsula and in the region, including [their] restraint from launching long-range missiles”[2]

The Korean Peninsula has now reached a security dilemma, in which one state increasing its security is seen as a threat to that of another.  On October 17, officials from the US, South Korea and Japan met to discuss disarmament on the peninsula, and agreed to keep in contact on North Korea’s weapons development.

From a foreigner’s perspective, this news on North Korea is not surprising.  However, the South Korean government should be attentive to such cases regarding defense policy, as it may result in a doubly insecure global balance of power.


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