Kim Jong-un’s Tools of Coercion
KF-VUB KOREA CHAIR POLICY BRIEF • 06/2018
By Jung H. Pak
Last fall and winter, the world was tense with the real possibilities of a military conflict breaking out on the Korean Peninsula as a result of Kim Jong-un’s testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles, the North’s sixth and largest nuclear test, and the rhetorical war with U.S. President Donald Trump. While the threat of another Korean war seems to be in the rear-view mirror, for now, we have to remember that Kim has been expanding, sharpening, and demonstrating other tools of coercive diplomacy, including selective engagement, cyberattacks, and chemical weapons. He has been deploying these tools to suppress criticism of the regime, sow division within South Korea and among U.S. allies and regional stakeholders, and shape an external environment favorable for reinforcing Kim’s legitimacy and North Korea’s claimed status as a nuclear weapons power.