Causes of Deadlock in West-North Korea Relations from Drills in Diplomacy to Searching for Dialogue

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The Asia-Pacific Region has a political conjuncture shaped mainly by alliances and sides. For this reason, the region is becoming a geopolitical chessboard where the power struggle between Western actors and states such as China and North Korea, which are in search of multipolarity, takes place. As a matter of fact, although as an actor who has closed its diplomatic paths, North Korea has an important place in that competition, although it only shows influence with actions, harsh rhetoric and exercises. Because when the West’s moves in the region are examined, it can be said that the evaluations made without taking Pyongyang into account would be an incomplete reading.

Undoubtedly, North Korea is a major nuclear power. Due to the recent developments such as increased missile tests,[1] the decision to increase its nuclear weapons and capacities,[2] and the adoption of the law that declared itself as a nuclear power,[3] the Pyongyang administration is maximizing the security concerns of the regional states. This consolidates the actors led by the United States of America (USA) around a common threat perception. However, the actions, rhetoric and exercises of the countries that are growing together and strengthening their influence in the region do not deter North Korea. On the contrary, this union leads Pyongyang to follow a more proactive foreign policy and provoke it.

The first point that can be examined at this point is that North Korea considers the US and its allies’ exercises in the Asia-Pacific Region as actions that bring the current status quo closer to the “red line”. As a matter of fact, Pyongyang strongly opposed the military exercises organized in cooperation with Washington and Seoul, claiming that these activities turned the Asia-Pacific Region into a “giant war arsenal”.[4]

With its revisionist attitude, its opposition to the West, to the USA and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and its rising and growing nuclear power, North Korea can create a significant break in the security architecture of the Asia-Pacific Region. However, this situation directs the regional capitals to the West in general and to the USA in particular.

These exercises, which do not create any deterrent in Pyongyang, intensify North Korea’s rhetoric and actions, thus creating an unstoppable security dilemma in the region. Moreover, increasing tensions deepen the security concerns of states.

For all these reasons, it can be argued that the security equation of the region will become even more fragile and there will be no improvement in the aforementioned table in the short term. At the same time, North Korea’s threatening rhetoric does not create a deterrent in the West and finds provocative feedback.

The second issue to be examined is North Korea’s harsh rejection of the US’s idea of negotiating denuclearization. In this context, it is also known that Washington offered humanitarian aid to Pyongyang within the scope of the Covid-19 outbreak. However, the Pyongyang administration turned down this offer of assistance. North Korea has described these initiatives as “a shameless time-waster”. In addition, Pyongyang explained the reason for the refusal as the “hostile attitude and actions” of the USA.[5] This can be interpreted as North Korea has closed the door to dialogue and the issue cannot be resolved through diplomatic means.

As a result, it can be said that the security equation in the Asia-Pacific Region is getting more and more fragile and North Korea plays a decisive role in this. The West, on the other hand, is taking various steps to end this insecurity. However, at this point, it is clearly seen that military exercises, one of the methods tried, did not create the expected deterrence and provoked Pyongyang. Dialogue calls, which are considered as the second option, are also flatly rejected by North Korea. Therefore, it can be stated that the security problems in the region will continue.

[1] “North Korea: What We Can Expect From Kim Jong-un in 2023”, BBC News,, (Date of Acession: 03.02.2023).

[2] “North Korea Plans to Expand Nuclear Arsenal”, Arms Control Association,, (Date of Acession: 03.02.2023).

[3] “North Korea Declares Itself a Nuclear Weapons State”, BBC News,, (Date of Acession: 03.02.2023).

[4] “N Korea Says US Drills Pushing Stiuation to “Extreme Red-Line”, Al Jazeera,, (Date of Acession: 03.02.2023).

[5] “North Korea Rejects Talks With US, Citing ‘Hostile Policy’, Voice of America News,, (Date of Acession: 03.02.2023).

Zeki Talustan GÜLTEN
Zeki Talustan Gülten, 2021 yılında Yalova Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden “Amerikan Dış Politikası” başlıklı bitirme teziyle ve 2023 yılında da Anadolu Üniversitesi Açık Öğretim Fakültesi Dış Ticaret bölümünden mezun olmuştur. Halihazırda Marmara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda Tezli Yüksek Lisans öğrenimine devam eden Gülten, lisans eğitimi esnasında Erasmus+ programı çerçevesinde Lodz Üniversitesi Uluslararası ve Politik Çalışmalar Fakültesi’nde bir dönem boyunca öğrenci olarak bulunmuştur. ANKASAM’da Asya-Pasifik Araştırma Asistanı olarak çalışan Gülten’in başlıca ilgi alanları; Amerikan Dış Politikası, Asya-Pasifik ve Uluslararası Hukuk’tur. Gülten, iyi derecede İngilizce bilmektedir.