Fletcher in the News

For North Korea, It Pays to Provoke: Prof. Sung-Yoon Lee

The New York Times

Sung-Yoon Lee is the Kim Koo-Korea Foundation Professor in Korean Studies and Assistant Professor at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University

North Korea Gets Ready for Launching

The name of the satellite that North Korea will attempt to put into orbit as early as next week helps explain why the country’s impoverished regime wanted its own satellite project. Kwangmyongsong, or Shining Star, was also a title for Kim Jong-il — the late father of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, and the man whose legacy of nuclear and missile programs his son must consolidate to justify his own hereditary rule.

North Korea’s state news media make it clear that the country’s rocket and nuclear programs have become integral to its self-image as a small, poor but militarily powerful country, which bigger nations must placate with economic concessions, and to its ruling party’s claim to political legitimacy. Thus, analysts say, North Korea will push ahead with its plan to launch the satellite despite international warnings of more sanctions. …

… And “what better time to paint Washington, Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing into a corner with a flare-up that demands crisis-management diplomacy than during leadership transition?” asked Lee Sung-yoon, a North Korea specialist at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Massachusetts, referring to elections and leadership changes unfolding in countries with the most at stake in the region.

“For Pyongyang, the perennial problem child in Northeast Asia, it pays to provoke,” Mr. Lee said, noting the North’s longstanding strategy of using military threats to grab the region’s attention and extract concessions.

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