North Korean Nuclear/Missile Threats and The Efficacy of The U.S.-South Korean Alliance in Shaping Regional Security Order


The 1950-53 Korean War ended through a truce, not any formal peace treaty, leaving the peninsula divided and in a state of war. As a result, inter-Korean relations for the past six decades have produced an atmosphere of mutual distrust, suspicion, tension, fear, and hostility. This paper makes a critical appraisal of the complex layers of this estranged relationship and its implications for order and stability in Northeast Asia. The study explores the combined role of the United States and its staunch ally South Korea in addressing such a challenging and volatile situation. In particular, the paper makes an attempt to assess the depth, strength, and limitations of the U.S.- South Korean alliance and its potential to pool political, diplomatic, and military resources in deterring an unapproachable and intimidating North Korea and also in anchoring stability on the Korean peninsula and beyond. Given North Korea’s conduct of three nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, and 2013 and its formidable advancement of long-range ballistic missile programs, policymakers in Washington and Seoul consider such measures by Pyongyang not only as confrontational but also as critical security challenges to the region. It is against this backdrop that this paper advances an argument that a revitalized U.S.-South Korean understanding, and their overlapping political and strategic visions are central to the viability and credibility of the alliance.