Macquarie University
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Understanding DPRK’s nuclear strategic choice: using a constructivist lens to illuminate rational choice insights

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posted on 2022-03-28, 09:55 authored by Chenjun Wang
Predictions of Pyongyang’s nuclear-weapons acquisition under the dominant structural-realist model are predicated on an anarchic international system where states optimise their capabilities to survive. Opaque to structural-realists is what predicated North Korea’s discounting of a Chinese or Soviet/Russian nuclear umbrella as a reliable balance to South Korea’s US-provided nuclear umbrella. This project innovatively explored the North Korean leaders’ ideational processes regarding self-realisation using Alastair Iain Johnston’s alternative strategic-culture model, subjecting key regime texts and historical documents to symbolic analysis. The model recognises that non-cultural factors help shape internal cultural elements and that ideological variables have significant impact on states’ reactions to structural changes. Understanding North Korea’s nuclear choice requires assaying leaders’ perceptions of three features inherent in its security environment; namely “the role of war in human affairs,” “the nature of the adversary and the threat it poses” and “the efficacy of the use of force.” These preoccupations limited nuclear choice to ideation-derived strategic choices where indigenous nuclear balancing was preferred across changing structural conditions. It is concluded that Pyongyang’s nuclear-weapons programme was not only for survival, but also for internal social stability, economic prosperity, political ideological consistency and the regime’s credibility in the international system.


Table of Contents

Chapter I. Introduction -- Chapter II. Structural-realist model & strategic-culture model -- Chapter III. The constitution of Realpolitik ideations -- Chapter IV. Continued Realpolitik ideations and new constructions -- Chapter V. DPRKs strategic-culture and nuclear choice -- Chapter VI. Conclusion -- References.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 92-119

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations

Department, Centre or School

Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Lavina Lee

Additional Supervisor 1

Lloyd Cox


Copyright Chenjun Wang 2018. Copyright disclaimer:




Korea (South)


1 online resource (vi, 119 pages)

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