Policy Memo: South/North Korea THAAD Strategy Recommendation


United States, in hegemonic effort to protect the nation of South Korea, clearly demonstrates strong investment and military support for the South Korea state, especially with the implantation of THAAD. However, other nuclear state players have strategic interest in this theater and must be considered in forward strategy.  No strong linkage exists between the U.S. and North Korea, that our nations may successfully engage in bargaining and this leaves war as the more probable strategy to threat reduction, unless we can garner support from other strong leaders in the UN. With the successful collaboration of the United Nations, including leading economic states such as Russia and China, we may use diplomatic coercion as both compelling and deterrent tactics to not only dismantle North Koreas nuclear systems, but also to simultaneously bring it to the global market as a stronger economic player, rather than an isolationist, empirical nuclear state.


During recent months, North Korea has launched several tests of ballistic missiles,; the most recent of which on September 5, 2016, flew approximately 1000km landing into the Sea of Japan, well within Japan’s air strike zone, without any prior warning to regional leaders (NBC News). Despite receiving four sets of sanctions by the UNSC (FP), North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-Un, has proceeded to advance his nuclear missions and perform repeated tests in this region, making neighboring countries uneasy and feeling at the brink of war, South Korea, in particular.

Meanwhile, as a way of preventative strategy to avoid nuclear attack in the region, the United States and South Korea have jointly installed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), a United States Army anti-ballistic missile system designed to shoot down short, medium, and intermediate range ballistic missiles (CNN). China and Russia, however, are upset by the installation and have reprimanded the U.S. for not going through proper institutional channels within the UN protocol. Both nuclear giants are concerned, and maybe with good reason, that THAAD can be used to intervene any of their own missiles during war and gives the United States a strategic advantage.


With the rapid advancement of North Korea’s nuclear technology and the implementation of THAAD to deter them, there now exists a security dilemma between the two states. Bargaining will most likely be unsuccessful as it will set up a Prisoner’s Dilemma. While this seems primarily an issue for South Korea, as Pyongyang wants to expand its territory by taking over that region, it is also a matter of national security for the U.S. as experts say that at the current pace, North Korea will be able to reach the U.S. with missiles before the year, 2020 (NBC).

Currently, there also exists a collective action problem, which has prevented successful attempts to deter NK with economic sanctions. While China has the ability to make the greatest impact with sanctions, the PRC leadership has refused any hard-hitting sanctions and has been outspoken about not taking any measure that would severely impact North Korean’s economy or injure the current political regime. Further, China overtly condemns South Korea (and the U.S.) for taking any action to defend itself from this aggressive player, even though crisis seems imminent. China is also upset that the U.S. might use missiles to attack China and has profusely condemned the mission. Reports from the Department of State (DOS) admit it is also a strategic mission for the U.S., but also we bear the cost of defending our allies in the region. The other UN players support minor/major sanctions but none are equipped or have been willing to implement such measures.

While THAAD may not be a long-term deterrent, it may thwart attacks in the short term until another strategy can be implemented. The United Nations group could share the cost of an attack against the sites that can be identified by satellite, however there would likely be counter-attacks and South Korea would be at great risk in this strategy. The possibility for diplomatic success exists if all major economic players are on board. Crippling economic sanctions could be implemented to compel North Korea toward dismantling the nuclear armaments. Further, an overriding offer of economic support and open trade/investment can be made to North Korea to help it boost its faltering economic systems.  In this way, war and its heavy costs would be avoided and North Korea could be brought to the world’s table as an emerging market.


Dear Mr./Madame President,
In addition to the immediate discussions with Russia and China to reduce tensions and ensure there is no incomplete/miscommunication over the implantation on THAAD, I recommend that we implement a two-fold strategy. First, garner support for collective action from key stakeholders within the United Nations to impose strict economic sanctions on North Korea. This may deter them from further nuclear developments and compel them to dismantle their nuclear arms.  This effort would include trade sanctions, as well as stoppage of all incoming trade commodities, IMF and World Bank support and transactions.  Second, we offer strong economic support for Korean markets and financial investment by UN players, to help North Korea relaunch its suffering economy, in exchange for their dismantling of nuclear arms. This will not only accomplish the reduction of threat and crisis in the region, but also help the entire region to prosper. Additionally, the U.S. will have shown its hegemonic leadership ability, once again, and help to bring a long-standing crisis to an end.

Should the above measures fail, my recommendation would then be to make a preventive air strike against North Korea to destroy its nuclear capabilities and render it incapacitated, before it can further enhance its technology and arsenal.  I would also suggest that we remove the current regime and end the long lineage of creators of war in the region and continue dialogue with China and Russia to ease tensions.

Works Cited

Baculinao, Eric. “South Korea Missile Shield Could Spark New Crisis: China Media.” NBC NEWS.  21 Jul 2016. Web. Sep 14 2016.

Frieden, Jeffrey , David Lake, and Kenneth Schultz. World Politics: Interests, Interactions, Institutions. 3rd ed. New York*London: W.W. Norton, 2016. Print.

Griffiths, James and K.J. Kwon.  North Korea fires 3 ballistic missiles; Japan calls it ‘serious threat.” CNN. 05 Sep 2016. Web. 13 Sep 2016.

Shahid, Suleman M. North Korea Rocket Test and Implications. Foreign Policy Journal.  Asia Pacific Feb 18, 2016 Web. 14 Sept 2016.

“The Hard Truth About THAAD, South Korea and China.”  National Interest.  February 23, 2016. Web. 9.14.2016.

Washington Institute, The.  The Washington Institute. Viability and Consequences of Preventive Military Action against Iran’s Nuclear Program.  Weinberg Founders Conference, 2009 Web. 14 Sep 2016.

Woo, Kim Tae.  North Korea’s SLBMs: China’s Role and South Korea’s Dilemma. The Diplomat.  07 Sept 2016. Web. 13 Sep 2016.

U.S. Department of State. Missile Defense and the U.S. Response to the North Korean Ballistic Missile and WMD Threat. Frank A. Rose. Washington, DC.  May 19, 2015 . Web. http://www.state.gov/t/avc/rls/2015/242610.htm  13 Sep 16.