Conventional Counterforce Dilemmas: South Korea's Deterrence Strategy and Stability on the Korean Peninsula

Ian Bowers, Royal Danish Defence College, and Henrik Stålhane Hiim, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs

In response to North Korea's nuclear weapons program, South Korea is quietly pursuing an independent conventional counterforce and countervalue strategy. This strategy is unique. Few, if any, nonnuclear states have sought to rely on advanced conventional capabilities to deter a nuclear-armed adversary. Why is South Korea pursuing a conventional counterforce and countervalue strategy, and what could its impact be on strategic stability on the Korean Peninsula? South Korea's approach should be understood as both a short- and long-term hedge against U.S. abandonment. Its deterrent effect, no matter how uncertain, acts as a short-term stopgap if the United States abandons South Korea. Over the long term, capabilities such as advanced ballistic and cruise missiles bolster South Korea's nuclear latency. At the same time, we highlight that the strategy poses numerous technological and operational difficulties and has negative implications for arms race and crisis stability. Given South Korea's approach and North Korea's response, disarmament efforts focused purely on the bilateral U.S.–North Korea relationship will not succeed. Rather, any agreement will now need to address the growing gap in the conventional balance of forces on the Korean Peninsula.


Elite Competition, Social Movements, and Election Violence in Nigeria

Megan Turnbull, University of Georgia

Election violence varies significantly within countries, yet how and why are undertheorized. Although existing scholarship has shown how national-level economic, institutional, and contextual factors increase a country's risk for violence during elections, these studies cannot explain why elites organize election violence in some localities but not others. An analysis of gubernatorial elections in Nigeria reveals the conditions under which elites recruit popular social-movement actors for pre-election violence. Gubernatorial elections are intensely competitive when agreements between governors and local ruling party elites over the distribution of state patronage break down. To oust their rivals and consolidate power, elites recruit popular reformist groups for pre-election violence and voter mobilization. Conversely, when local ruling-party elites are aligned over how state patronage is to be distributed, the election outcome is agreed to well in advance. In this scenario, there is little incentive to enlist social movement actors for violence. Case studies of the Ijaw Youth Council and Boko Haram provide empirical support for the argument. The theory and evidence help explain subnational variation in election violence as well as the relationship between intraparty politics and violence during elections, and speak to broader questions about political order and violence.


PRC Assertiveness in the South China Sea: Measuring Continuity and Change, 1970–2015

Andrew Chubb, Lancaster University

Why has the People's Republic of China (PRC) courted international opprobrium, alarmed its neighbors, and risked military conflict in pursuit of its claims over vast areas of the South China Sea? Answering this question depends on recognizing long-term patterns of continuity and change in the PRC's policy. A new typology of “assertive” state behaviors in maritime and territorial disputes, and original time-series events data covering the period from 1970 to 2015, shows that the key policy change—China's rapid administrative buildup and introduction of regular coercive behaviors—occurred in 2007, between two and five years earlier than most analysis has supposed. This finding disconfirms three common explanations for Beijing's assertive turn in maritime Asia: the Global Financial Crisis, domestic legitimacy issues, and the ascendancy of Xi Jinping. Focused qualitative case studies of four breakpoints identified in the data indicate that PRC policy shifts in 1973, 1987, and 1992 were largely opportunistic responses to favorable geopolitical circumstances. In contrast, the policy change observed from 2007 was a lagged effect of decisions taken in the 1990s to build specific capabilities designed to realize strategic objectives that emerged in the 1970s.


To Disclose or Deceive? Sharing Secret Information between Aligned States

Melinda Haas, Princeton University, and Keren Yarhi-Milo, Columbia University

Why do aligned states sometimes disclose secret information about their miitary plans to use force, whereas other times they choose to deceive their partners? The state initiating these plans may choose among four information-sharing strategies: collusion, compartmentalization, concealment, and lying. Three main considerations shape its decision: the state's assessment of whether it needs its partner's capabilities to succeed at the military mission, the state's perception of whether the partner will be willing to support the state in the requested role, and the state's anticipated deception costs for not fully informing its partner state. Several cases illustrate how these strategies are chosen: Israel, Britain, and France's decision to use force against Egypt during the Suez Crisis (collusion between France and Israel, and concealment vis-à-vis the United States); Israel's 2007 bombing of Syria's al Kibar reactor (compartmentalization); and Israel's deliberations whether to attack Iran's nuclear reactor (lying). These strategies have implications for intra-alliance restraint and contribute to understanding deception and secrecy between allies.


The United States and the NATO Non-extension Assurances of 1990: New Light on an Old Problem?

Marc Trachtenberg, University of California, Los Angeles

The Russian government has claimed that the Western powers promised at the end of the Cold War not to expand NATO, but later reneged on that promise. Most former officials in the West, and many scholars as well, have denied that this was the case; but other scholars, along with a handful of former officials, believe that promises to that effect were, in fact, made in 1990. So who is right? The question still has political importance: how it is answered has bearing on how we should feel about NATO expansion and, indeed, about the United States' post–Cold War policy more generally. So it makes sense to stand back and try to see where the truth lies. An examination of the debate in light of the evidence—especially evidence that the participants themselves have presented—leads to the conclusion that the Russian allegations are by no means baseless, which affects how the U.S.-Russian relationship today is to be understood.

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