Small Wars Journal

North Korean Threat Requires New U.S. Pressure Campaign Targeting Pyongyang

North Korean Threat Requires New U.S. Pressure Campaign Targeting Pyongyang

“Maximum pressure 2.0” campaign employing all tools of national power “likely represents the only way to denuclearize North Korea without resorting to war,” new think tank report finds.

It includes recommendations related to diplomacy, military posture, cyber operations, sanctions, and information and influence activities.

Washington, D.C., December 6 – The United States should target Pyongyang with a new “maximum pressure 2.0 campaign” that employs all tools of national power and seeks to persuade Kim Jong Un to relinquish the regime’s weapons of mass destruction, according to a new comprehensive report released today by the D.C.-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).

In “Maximum Pressure 2.0: A Plan for North Korea,” six FDD experts explain that current U.S. policy has failed to persuade Kim to denuclearize and assess that the North Korean threat remains undiminished. Based on this, the authors recommend that the United States, working with its allies and partners, implement a “Plan B” integrating diplomacy, military posture, cyber operations, sanctions, and information and influence activities. While the experts acknowledge that this plan could increase tensions in the short-term, they suggest “such a campaign likely represents the only way to denuclearize North Korea without resorting to war.”

“Kim Jong Un’s nuclear and missile programs represent a grave threat to the U.S. and our allies, and we cannot allow him to drag-out the status quo indefinitely,” says co-editor Bradley Bowman, senior director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power. “In the short term, if Kim fails to demonstrate good faith with tangible steps toward relinquishing his nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, the United States should lead an aggressive and comprehensive new pressure campaign without delay.”

“Kim will give up his nuclear program only when he concludes that its cost to him and his regime is too great – that is, when he believes possession of nuclear weapons threatens his survival,” explains co-editor David Maxwell, FDD senior fellow and former planner with the ROK/U.S. Combined Forces Command. “But external pressure alone, although important, will almost certainly fail to create the right cost-benefit ratio. It is the threat from the North Korean elite, military, and people that is most likely to cause Kim to give up his nuclear weapons.”

In “Maximum Pressure 2.0: A Plan B for North Korea,” David Maxwell and Bradley Bowman provide context for the current crisis and an overview of the North Korean threat. The editors then summarize a “Plan B” for North Korea and explain why it is necessary. Each of the subsequent chapters include background and analysis sections, as well as specific recommendations for employing the respective tool of U.S. national power.

In “Aggressive Diplomacy,” authors Mathew Ha, David Maxwell, and Bradley Bowman warn Washington to avoid falling prey to the North Korean regime’s longstanding practice of diplomatic deception. Instead, they argue that the U.S. should lead an international diplomatic effort to shift Kim’s cost-benefit analysis and persuade him to agree to specific timetables for inspections, dismantlement, and verification for each nuclear and missile facility.

In “Military Deterrence and Readiness,” authors David Maxwell, Bradley Bowman, and Mathew Ha note the undiminished North Korean military threat and the pivotal deterrent role of American military power. They propose specific military steps to deter North Korean aggression, protect U.S. interests, empower effective diplomacy, and support a new maximum pressure campaign.

In “The Cyber Element,” authors Mathew Ha and Annie Fixler call for a U.S.-led cyber-enabled information and offensive cyber campaign targeting North Korea and the creation of a joint ROK-U.S. cyber task force.

In “U.S. Sanctions Against North Korea,” authors David Asher and Eric Lorber propose increasing economic pressure on Pyongyang including by revitalizing the North Korea Illicit Activities Initiative and designating the leadership of major Chinese banks engaging in prohibited transactions with North Korea.

In “Information and Influence Activities” (IIA), authors David Maxwell and Mathew Ha argue that an IIA campaign targeting the North Korean regime represents an essential new component for any U.S. policy that hopes to persuade Kim to relinquish his weapons of mass destruction.

The anthology represents the combined work of FDD’s three centers on American power: the Center for Cyber and Technology Innovation, the Center on Economic and Financial Power, and the Center on Military and Political Power.

About FDD: The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) is a Washington, DC-based non-partisan policy institute focusing on foreign policy and national security. Visit our website at www.fdd.org and connect with us on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube.