The King from the East: DPRK-Syria-Iran Nuclear Nexus and Strategic Implications for Israel and the ROK

 

In the field of international security, few connections have been made between the Korean peninsula with the Middle East. Traditional regional studies literature focuses on Korean issues within the Asia Pacific region while proliferation literature focuses more on terrorism and the Middle East. There is a broader dimension to the Korean peninsula, however, when it comes to the issue of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), as seen with the recent release of information regarding the September 2007 Israeli air strike on the nuclear reactor in Syria, which had received assistance from North Korea (DPRK; Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). The DPRK’s documented WMD proliferation to rogue states in the Middle East such as Syria and Iran has important strategic implications for Israel and South Korea (ROK; Republic of Korea), which face similar threats from their hostile neighbors. As a corollary, given that Israel and the ROK are both under the U.S. security umbrella, this will in turn have serious strategic ramifications for the United States.

This paper attempts to highlight the link between the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula with nuclear issues in the Middle East. It focuses on the DPRK-Syria-Iran axis and ramifications for Israel and the ROK specifi cally and for the United States more broadly. It draws comparative similarities between Israel and the ROK both economically and politically as democracies threatened by totalitarian neighbors. In so doing, it is hoped that this paper will help reframe the debate on the current nuclear stalemate on the Korean peninsula and provide alternative lenses through which to view an old problem and perhaps new road maps for finding our way out of the conundrum. The paper concludes with policy recommendations for the United States and its allies in mitigating the tensions and risks of a nuclear arms race in Asia and the Middle East.

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