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Nuclear North Korea: A Debate on Engagement Strategies

5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0231131292
ISBN-10: 0231131291
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Editorial Reviews


This timely and important book is free of much of the hyperbole that has fettered a more concise course of action for dealing with North Korea. The book not only fills the current scholarly and policy gap with a clear-cut analysis of the policy challenges facing the United States and its allies, but also offers a thorough and provocative assessment for what policies to pursue.

(Korea Times)

[Nuclear North Korea] aims to shed fresh light on two of our biggest areas of ignorance: what motivates Pyongyang's extreme hostility to the outside world, and how best to part it from its claimed nuclear 'deterrent'... Msssrs Cha and Kang debate tough versus tender engagement in alternating chapters.


Nuclear North Korea provides a penetrating analysis of what is probably the world's most dangerous trouble spot.

(Gordon G. Chang Asian Review of Books)

Victor Cha and David Kang have joined forces to bring us a remarkable and sound presentation of two different strategies on how to deal with a nuclear North Korea. One of the most valuable aspects of their book lies in its composition― a running dialogue and critique of each other's strategy, presented in alternating chapters and culminating in a combined effort in the last two chapters of the book. The refreshing and honest internal evaluation that accompanies solid academic writing makes this work stand out.

(Charles L. Pritchard Survival)

While both authors believe that engagement represents the only rational policy for the United States, they arrive at this conclusion along very different paths. In individually authored alternating chapters Cha and Kang offer differing assessments of the threat posed by the DPRK and the extent to which Pyongyang can be induced to join respectable international society. In the process, they explicitly take issue with each other and engage in something of a public debate on the merits, requirements, and prospects of engagement.

(Robert M. Hathaway World Policy Journal)

[T]his book is required reading for anyone who wants a deeper appreciation of what is surely one of the most pressing issues in the post-September 11 world.

(Nicholas Khoo International Affairs)

It is a slow and thoughtful read, navigating past the existing U.S. policymaking, the current media hyperboles, and the politically motivated punditry.

(Bill Drucker Korean Quarterly)

Their book is important. Dealing with North Korea will be one of the central challenges for the U.S. in the coming years.

(Nicholas Kristof New York Review of Books)

Victor D. Cha and David C. Kang take a step away from emotion-laden debates about North Korea to offer a cool-headed, reasoned, and rational debate on the nature of the North Korean threat and the best policies for dealing with it.

(Journal of Asian Studies)

Cha and Kang wrestle with that policy context in their crisp, smart book.

(Michael O'Hanlon Chronicle of Higher Education)

This book is good and extraordinary. It is a delight to read.

(Ruediger Frank Pacific Affairs)


Nuclear North Korea, written in a smooth and lucid style, is the most thoughtful and analytical treatment of practical strategies for dealing with North Korea that exists in print.

(Ashton Carter, Harvard University)

This book is invaluable in thinking through the costs and benefits of engagement or containment. It is intelligent, well-researched, and presents both sides of the argument fairly. In other words, it is unusual in the world of policy.

(Fareed Zakaria, Columnist, Newsweek)

North Korea's nuclear capability may pose the greatest current danger for U.S. security policy. Yet almost none of the strategists addressing the problem are genuine experts on Korea, and while punditry on the issue abounds, hardly any scholars have applied rigorous academic analysis to the task of policy recommendations. This serious but clearheaded book does much to fill in both glaring gaps. Cha and Kang provide a model example of how to apply expertise to policy debate in a timely, readable, and thoughtful way.

(Richard K. Betts, Director, Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies, Columbia University)

Nuclear North Korea is a straightforward assessment, balanced and thorough, and filled with vital facts. This is an important addition to scholarship and to the policy making community. The authors, fully versed in both the literature and the culture of the topic, make a valuable contribution to understanding how we must deal with our longest running and now escalating nuclear nightmare problem.

(Richard V. Allen, National Security Advisor to President Reagan and Senior Fellow, The Hoover Institution)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (April 26, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231131291
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231131292
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,048,884 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Professors Cha and Kang come at the current and historic crisis in North Korea from different angles: Cha from a more "realist" view of international relations, Kang from a more "liberal" view. The book is a series of several chapters written alternately by Cha and Kang with each pair of chapters focusing on one aspect of the Korean problem. Both view North Korea as being entirely "rational," and make a point to discredit 30-second sound byte types of analyses of North Korea's decisionmaking process. Cha finds that it is perfectly rational for North Korea to attack or go nuclear even if the end result has a high probability of resulting in total destruction, because the status quo is so unbearable that the North is willing to bear the risk. Kang suggests that increased economic development, integration into the world economy, and the introduction of market forces will alter North Korea's cost-benefit analysis and push it away from violent military action or the active pursuit of a nuclear weapons program. In the end, both agree that the default strategy for the United States is engagement.
Cha and Kang do a good job of bringing intellectual depth to a debate that is often over-simplified. It makes a good read for the average reader while remaining a strong academic work of its own. This is not a history book--it is a book examining academic questions with real-world implications.
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Format: Paperback
After the first Gulf War, several second/third world countries made the observation that the technical and other advantages possesed by the U. S. make it imperative that any country concerned about an attack from the United States have nuclear weapons. I note that I don't see President Bush talking much about attacking North Korea. General Gary Luck offered a quick sound bite on the costs of a war in N. Korea: "one million casualties, one trillion dollars in industrial damage and lost business."

In this excellent book the authors attempt to bring some sense to the scare headlines so loved by the news media -- Newsweek called the North Korean leader, "Dr. Evil." The book is written by two professors, one a bit more hawkish, one a bit more dovish. They present their views, they discuss the others viewpoint, they then try to come up with an overall plan that makes sense.

A million casualties -- somebody better come up with a plan that's better than TV's talking heads.

With this book I also highly recommend "North Korea at a Crossroads" by Suk Hi Kim.
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Victoe Cha is one of the authorities in studying Korean Peninsula. This book addresses the challenges of North korea's nuclear weapon programs and its threat to US allies in the region. The author analyzes the strategies for dealing with North Korea's nuclear weapon programs with both progress and failure.
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Well written and easy to follow. I especially love the way the book is set up. Two authors who lean towards slightly different directions (hawk/dove) in regards to how America should engage with North Korea, present their argument while also responding to the other's arguments in alternating chapters.
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