May 14, 2019

The United States Needs a Gray-Zone Strategy Against North Korea

Pyongyang thrives on provocation. Washington has to learn to counter it.

By Duyeon Kim, Nicholas D. Wright and Kristine Lee

North Korea’s firing of short-range ballistic missiles on May 4 and 9 and testing of a new “tactical guided weapon” on April 17 are stark reminders that the Kim Jong Un regime knows how to deftly exploit the gray zone between war and peace. Pyongyang is not only seeking to pressure South Korea and reassure North Koreans of their country’s military might but is also probing the United States’ trigger points.

Since assuming power in 2011, Kim has fine-tuned his risk calculus, launching provocations against the United States and its Northeast Asian allies, Japan and South Korea, that fall below the threshold of retaliation but successfully achieve Pyongyang’s goals. The success of Kim’s foreign policy rests on the skillful use of gray-zone tactics: aggressive or coercive actions that seek to gain advantage and influence without provoking outright escalation to military conflict.

Read the full article in Foreign Policy.

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