How much success did North Korea achieve by increasing tensions as means to extract concessions?


Kim said the constitution should be amended to educate North Koreans that South Korea is a "primary foe and invariable principal enemy" and define the North's territory as separate from the South. "We don't want war but we have no intention of avoiding it," Kim was quoted as saying by KCNA. North Korea should also plan for "completely occupying, subjugating and reclaiming" South Korea in the event of a war, and South Koreans should also no longer be referred to as fellow countrymen, Kim added, calling for the severing of all inter-Korean communication and the destruction of a monument to reunification in Pyongyang.

How much success did North Korea achieve by increasing tensions as means to extract concessions? It seems like North Korea keep increasing tensions every month or so by making the headlines regularly, but is there a positive track record of concessions that it received from doing so? Because I don't even think they got a lot of aid money from Korea or the United States.

  • Negotiations about what?
    – Joe W
    Jan 18 at 22:39
  • 4
    Historically, not bad. They got some good concessions out of Clinton in the 90s, I recall. Basically, they spent a lot of time getting aid in return for not developing an atomic bomb. The thing with being an irrational hermit kingdom is that it works. Kims are on the 3rd iteration right now. The international community, such as it is, isn't really all that geared towards handling countries that are so far outside the normal bounds of behavior. Long as the internals hold up, i.e. as long as there is no coup. Still, govts are going to be even less trusting of NK than they were in the 90s. Jan 19 at 0:28

1 Answer 1


(2017) The worse North Korea acts, the more cash aid it gets

“For Pyongyang, it pays to provoke,” Sung-Yoon Lee, Korean Studies professor, The Fletcher School at Tufts University, told CNBC on Monday. “Whereas good behavior buys only indifference from its richer neighbors, being a bad apple buys leverage and billions in aid.”

The same countries admonishing North Korea leader Kim Jong Un for nuclear belligerence still shell out large sums of diplomatic aid under the motive of “damage-control diplomacy, i.e. getting the North to back off and stay out of the headlines for a while,” Lee said. “Exporting insecurity is [Pyongyang’s] time-tested means to reaping concessions.”

Over the past quarter-century, the pariah state has amassed $20 billion worth of cash, food, fuel, and medicine from the U.S., Japan, China and South Korea. That’s come from “repeated lies of denuclearization,” according to Lee, who has testified as an expert witness at U.S. government hearings on North Korea policy.

That is certainly a viewpoint, and a pretty opinionated one at that. Add to it that was true before - when countries still somewhat expected NK to abide by agreements - may not be as true in 2024. But it is not obviously wrong either.

Another case, 2003

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