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Organizing international security in Northeast Asia: Hegemony, concert of powers, and collective security.

For much of the twentieth century, international politics was subjected to superpower rivalries--hot and cold wars--that were conducted at the global level with competing global interests (Lake and Morgan 1997). The end of the Cold War, however, altered the security environment of the international system significantly, requiring states to seek new ways to manage their security concerns. For example, following the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, much of the Cold War security strategy vanished from view or diminished in significance (Miller 2001). The organization of international security decentralized noticeably, forcing states to pursue security on their own (Hurrell and Fawcett 1995). In short, the end of the Cold War meant that in the new international security environment, states could no longer calculate their national interests as they did before.

As the Cold War was ending, changes in the balance of power became particularly apparent in Northeast Asia. The former Soviet Union retreated from its hegemonic struggle with the United States. In terms of overall national strength, the United States became the only superpower possessing first-class military-political capabilities and an economy to support such capabilities. A considerable reduction in military confrontation in the region gave more freedom of action to the People's Republic of China (PRC), placing China at the center of all security dimensions in the region (Buzan 2003). Consequently, the Northeast Asian region has faced the need to establish a new framework for long-term regional security in order to handle possible threats to the region's stability and to adopt feasible and desirable conflict-management models in order to establish peace and stability in the region (Kim 2002, 6-7).

Under these circumstances, a specific security issue that may cause serious instability in the region has originated from North Korea's nuclear development. The first North Korean nuclear crisis in the mid-1990s was solved through bilateral negotiation between the United States (i.e., the Bill Clinton administration) and North Korea. Bilateral talks between them produced an agreement in October 1994 known as the Agreed Framework, which was viewed as a comprehensive resolution of the crisis. However, before the agreement was fully implemented, the George W. Bush administration decided to review its policy toward North Korea and ended up halting its implementation of the Agreed Framework. The Bush administration's policy review and North Korea's response to it initiated the second North Korean nuclear crisis in the early 2000s (Yun 2005). In this regard, it is valuable to examine the security implications of the North Korean case with respect to organizing regional security in Northeast Asia in the post-Cold War era.

Compared with the first North Korean nuclear crisis, the second one has very different features. In the second crisis, dialogues have emerged on how to manage regional security issues. Regional negotiations to deal with North Korea's nuclear threats have taken place. These negotiations, the Six Party Talks (6PT), include all the major players in the region: the two Koreas, China, the United States, Japan, and Russia.

The second crisis is also distinguished by what can be viewed as three diverse phases. This distinction can help us test a set of models in security studies, namely, hegemony, concert of powers, and collective security. For example, the first phase, between early 2001 and March 2003, witnessed a bilateral confrontation between the United States and North Korea. In the second phase the North Korean nuclear issue became a multilateral one through China's engagement in April 2003. Finally, since North Korea's nuclear test in October 2006, the second crisis has witnessed a third phase--joint action by the international community, such as United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1718. (1)

In sum, the North Korean case provides a salient example for security studies, not only because it reveals how the major regional powers have been pursuing their security interests, but also because it demonstrates the complexity of the security environment in Northeast Asia. This study analyzes how the North Korean case demonstrates new ways of organizing regional security in the region in the post-Cold War era. I examine whether certain historical phases of the second North Korean nuclear crisis can be categorized into and explained by the three aforementioned security models.


In general terms, the history of the nuclear talks between the United States and North Korea illustrates that both countries broke agreements, imposed sanctions, engaged in hostile policy toward each other, and yet decided to trust each other again. Nevertheless, in specific terms, the initial stage of the second North Korean nuclear crisis shows that antagonistic opposition led to a serious bilateral confrontation. This section analyzes the implications of the nuclear confrontation from the perspective of a hegemonic power structure to determine whether US hegemonic leadership has played a successful role in dealing with the North Korean nuclear issue.

International Security Under a Hegemonic Power Structure

The form of an emerging international system basically depends on how "the dominant powers in the international hierarchy of power and prestige organize and control the processes of interactions among the elements of the system" (Gilpin 1981, 29). History demonstrates that every international system is regulated and managed by the leading powers of the day. Leading states determine and impose the principal rules that shape the way they behave as well as the manner in which the other states in the system must respond. In this regard, Gilpin suggests three types of international systems: a hegemonic power structure, a bipolar structure, and a balance of power system.

In a hegemonic power structure, "A single powerful state controls or dominates the lesser states in the system" (Gilpin 1981, 29). That state "is powerful enough to maintain the essential rules governing interstate relations, and willing to do so" (Keohane and Nye 2001, 38). According to the theory of hegemonic stability, in order for a hegemonic power structure to operate, a "stabilizer" should exist (Kindleberger 1973, 305), which can be defined as a hegemon--"a single power, possessing superiority of economic and military resources, implemented a plan for international order based on its interests and its vision of the world" (Keohane 1984, 31). With regard to the way in which a hegemonic power structure works itself out, hegemonic stability theory hypothesizes three key arguments: a hegemon defines and enforces the rules and rights that shape its own behavior and that of subordinates in a particular system; a hegemon creates and controls the network of political, economic, and security relationships in the system; and a hegemon supplies a stable economic order, to encourage other states to be interested in following its lead.

In this study, three key issues were selected in order to evaluate the main arguments of hegemonic stability theory in light of the actual process of the nuclear confrontation between the United States and North Korea: the designation of North Korea as an "axis of evil" by the Bush administration, the establishment of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), and the controversy surrounding the Banco DeltaAsia (BDA).

US Hegemony and the Axis of Evil

Since the end of the Cold War, we have seen a transformation in the US perception of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). During the Cold War, the United States believed the possession of WMD was a deterrent to major war because WMD were seen as "weapons of last resort." Contrarily, in the post-Cold War era, weapons of mass destruction are primarily regarded as "militarily useful weapons of choice" by rogue states or terrorists (Council on Foreign Relations 2002; White House 2002). In particular, the Bush administration perceived the acquisition of WMD by a small number of rogue states or terrorists as the most serious threat not only to US security but also to global security (Bush 2002b). In this context, one must remember the hypothesis that a hegemon defines the rules and norms for controlling the international system. This change in US perception of WMD proliferation indicates that the United States recognized the transformation of the security environment from the Cold War era to the post-Cold War era, meaning that US leaders believed they needed to redefine the rules and norms so as to render them suitable for controlling the international system. The US perception of WMD and US policy options in the post-Cold War era might well demonstrate the status of the United States as a rule maker in the international system.

The US perception of WMD proliferation in the post-Cold War era led Washington to identify North Korea's nuclear-weapon program as an urgent issue to be resolved immediately. North Korea, along with Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Libya, was viewed as one of the states that could be engaged in dangerous "immediate, potential, or unexpected" contingencies (Global Security 2001). (2) The US classification of North Korea's nuclear threat derived essentially from Washington's view of the North Korean regime. President Bush's address on the State of the Union in January 2002 made clear that perception when he stated that North Korea, Iran, and Iraq, along with those suspected of being their terrorist allies, constituted an "axis of evil" because these countries were threatening the United States and its allies' security with WMD. In particular, Bush designated North Korea as one of the possible targets of the administration's "war on terror," owing to its engagement in the proliferation of WMD (Bush 2002a).

The Establishment of the Proliferation Security Initiative

Reflecting on its perception of WMD in the post-Cold War era, the United States developed its initiative to stop the proliferation of WMD and their means of delivery by creating the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). (3)

Since its establishment, a number of maritime exercises have been conducted by the participating states. (4) With respect to the purpose of these exercises, the United States stated that the PSI was designed not to point to any particular country but to target would-be proliferators (Bolton 2004b). Nevertheless, the United States quickly identified North Korea as a proliferator and therefore an obvious threat to Northeast Asia's regional stability, and asserted that PSI exercises would have to be effective at cutting off any proliferation network that included North Korea (Bolton 2004a).

According to Gilpin (1981), a hegemon provides the subordinate states with "public goods (security, economic order, etc.)" in order to encourage the subordinate states to accept their dominant status in the system. In return, the subordinate states recognize the existing international order, which is established by the leading power (Gilpin 1981). The PSI is the centerpiece of the US pressure strategy for dealing with the "axis of evil," North Korea in particular. The establishment of the PSI demonstrates clearly that a hegemon establishes security relationships with its subordinates by setting up a security agenda of general concern.

The Banco Delta Asia Issue

The Banco Delta Asia (BDA) issue (5) may not seem immediately relevant to the nuclear talks. However, the case can be regarded as showing a remarkable use of US hegemonic power, since the United States was able to utilize the BDA issue as leverage to put pressure on North Korea to accept the US demand that North Korea disable its nuclear capability. As Lague and Greenless (2007) point out, US indictment of the Macao bank not only targeted the disconnection of North Korea's business from it but also aimed at isolating North Korea from the US-led international banking system. In particular, the United States wanted to prevent North Korea from engaging in the trade of any WMD materials. US officials clarified that the financial dispute over the BDA was aimed at North Korea's black-market business in WMD materials (Sanger 2005). More importantly, the BDA case illustrated the extent of US power: the United States exercised its financial power against potential proliferators or states sponsoring terrorism, in this case by severing the links between the Macanese bank and North Korea (Lague and Greenless 2007).

This interpretation is relevant to US hegemonic dominance in the world economy. For a hegemon, the ability to dominate others through the mechanisms of the market system helps it to maintain the international political economy (Gilpin 1987). In reality, a hegemon's economic power means the ability to terminate commercial interactions for the purpose of forcing subordinates to follow its rule, which means that the disconnection of access to trade, finance, or technology might be used as leverage for a hegemon to control its subordinates (Hirschman 1945). In case of the BDA issue, the United States exerted its dominant position to push the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) out of the international financial system owing to North Korea's unwillingness to follow the US-constructed rules.

Examination of the selected cases demonstrates how the United States, as a hegemon, has set up diverse pressures on North Korea in order to enforce its hegemonic leadership. As can be seen from the history of the North Korean nuclear talks, however, US hegemonic leadership has failed to change North Korea's behavior. US predominance has not been strong enough to compel North Korea to accept its rule. Therefore, at the initial stage of the North Korean nuclear issue, it was hard for the United States to gain support from other regional actors in dealing with the North Korean case. In this regard, Kerr (2005) perceived that it was difficult for the United States to benefit from its predominant position owing to the complexities of the relationships among the great powers in the Northeast Asian region. This cannot, however, explain all aspects of the North Korean nuclear crisis, making it necessary to explore further the different phases of the second nuclear crisis--in particular, the emergence of the multilateral forum called the Six Party Talks.

Concert of Powers

Unlike the first phase, which involved a bilateral confrontation between the United States and North Korea, the second phase of the crisis is notable for the multilateralization of the nuclear issue. Urging this multilateralization, China moved the nuclear issue into trilateral talks, which soon expanded to a six-party framework. Here I examine the security implications of the multilateralization of the second nuclear crisis from the perspective of a concert-of-powers system.

International Security Under a Concert-of-Powers System

The origin of a concert of powers is the European Concert in the nineteenth century. After the close of the Napoleonic Wars in 1814, the great powers of Europe--Britain, Austria, Prussia, Russia, and France--established the Concert of Europe. The system was successful from the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to the Crimean War of 1854. Almost forty years of peace prevailed in Europe without a major war among the major powers (Acharya 1999). Under a concert-of-powers system, the participation of members is stimulated by anxiety about war and therefore cooperation to prevent it (Morgan 1993). In security terms, it is more important for the members to cooperate to prevent war than to pursue their particular national interests.

With regard to the operation of a concert-of-powers system, no formal institutions can force members to take particular actions. Instead, a concert of powers tackles security issues through informal negotiations and regular meetings (Kupchan and Kupchan 1991). In relation to motivations for this kind of cooperation, Jervis indicates that there should be a shared consensus among the members to prevent war. This common interest--prevention of war--may be accepted because the great powers are aware of the costs of noncooperation (Jervis 1985). As Shirk (1997, 265) notes, "The primary objective of a concert is to regulate relations between the major powers. By sharing information about capabilities and intentions, the powers reduce the risk of security dilemmas among themselves. By creating norms of cooperation, the powers raise the cost of defection and aggressive behavior."

The major powers adopted two different approaches to tackle international relations in nineteenth-century Europe. On the one hand, they assumed a reasonably even distribution of power among the major powers themselves. On the other hand, the Concert of Europe

expected "great-power tutelage" over security matters involving smaller countries. Could such a nineteenth-century notion be acceptable to countries in today's post-Cold War era? Shirk points out the value of normative factors in a concert-of-powers system, but indicates the unlikelihood of smaller countries simply accepting "great-power tutelage" in today's international system. Instead, she floats the idea that "a twentieth-century concert ... would establish a norm that the powers would not intervene militarily in conflicts among the less powerful states" (Shirk 1997, 266). Moreover, Kissinger (1994, 79) notes that the European Concert "occurred partly because the equilibrium was designed so well that it could only be overthrown by an effort of a magnitude too difficult to mount. But the most important reason was that the Continental countries were knit together by a sense of shared values." Thus, today it would be essential for a concert of powers to create norms that play a key role in making its operation acceptable. The main idea of such a system can be summarized into keywords such as war prevention, cooperation without formal institutions, and creation of norms. The following section examines selected cases relevant to the key notion of a concert of powers.

China's Proactive Engagement Policy

In the initial stage of the second North Korean nuclear crisis, China did not want to be involved in the nuclear confrontation between the United States and North Korea. For example, on March 6, 2003, just before the US invasion of Iraq, Chinese foreign minister Tang Jiaxuan stated,

China's basic stance on the DPRK nuclear issue is that the Korean Peninsula should be denuclearized and peace and stability on the peninsula be maintained, underlining that the most effective means to resolve the issue is to realize the direct dialogue between the DPRK and the United States. ("Chinese FM" 2003)

Two factors are important to understanding China's initial hands-off attitude: China's perception of the North Korean nuclear issue and China's national strategy. China perceived that despite its international and regional interests in relation to the security of Northeast Asia and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) regime, the bilateral relationship between the United States and North Korea was central to the North Korean nuclear issue. Therefore, China emphasized that the best way to handle the nuclear issue would be via direct dialogue and negotiation between those two countries (Sha 2003). Another important reason was that China wanted to concentrate on achieving its national strategy, which aimed at promoting its own economic growth. China planned to build a "well-off society" as one of its strategic goals in the twenty-first century (China's National Defense 2002).

The US invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003, however, dramatically changed the political climate of the nuclear issue, because this event actually increased the probability of a US preemptive strike against North Korea (Wines 2003). For Beijing, it was necessary to prevent any destabilizing events from happening around its borders in order to maintain a "peaceful international environment" that might allow China to focus on its own economic development. US military action in Iraq and its designation of North Korea as the next target forced Beijing to make proactive diplomatic efforts so as to avoid a war from breaking out on the Korean peninsula. China's engagement policy, which can be interpreted as that of a great power wishing to prevent war, paved the way for the multilateralization of the nuclear issue. Three-party talks were held in April 2003, and eventually Six Party Talks, including all the major players in Northeast Asia, began in August 2003.

Multilateralization of the North Korean Nuclear Issue

No substantial progress was made toward dismantling the North Korean nuclear program during the three-party talks in April 2003. Nevertheless, the dialogue itself provided a diplomatic vehicle for controlling the North Korean nuclear issue within a multilateral framework (Chinese Foreign Ministry 2003). After the termination of the talks, the six countries--the United States, North Korea, China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia--agreed to create a multilateral forum to deal with the North Korean nuclear issue; between August 27 and 29, 2003, that multilateral framework was born. (6) Since its inception, the Six Party Talks have undergone several interruptions. Nevertheless, the forum has produced three joint statements since the first round of

talks: the Joint Statement of the Fourth Round of the Six Party Talks (September 19, 2005); the Initial Actions for the Implementation of the Joint Statement (February 13, 2007); and the Second-Phase Actions for the Implementation of the Joint Statement (October 3,2007). All of these established principles and concrete actions for disabling North Korea's nuclear program.

Despite lengthy recesses between rounds, the continuation of the 6PT meant that both principal players, the United States and North Korea, agreed that respective security concerns could be considered within a multilateral format. In addition, other major actors--China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea--also agreed to hold multilateral talks to deal with a specific security issue, which implied that they would accept the conclusions of the forum when they considered their own policy positions on North Korea's nuclear program. In other words, the multilateralization of the nuclear issue encouraged cooperation among the major players in Northeast Asia and eventually allowed them to make diplomatic efforts to avoid a war in the region. These processes demonstrate that in dealing with a specific regional security issue, the promotion of cooperation among the countries involved can be made without formal institutions, as the European Concert demonstrated earlier in history.

One distinction between "concert of powers" and "multilateralism" must be made. Although a concert-of-powers system takes the form of multilateralism, the two are not synonymous. A concert of powers is a specific type of multilateral security arrangement, a cooperative approach to the organization of security (Job 1997), whereas multilateral discussions and organizing can be seen in many areas of international relations. Thus, one can reasonably view the 6PT multilateral approach to the North Korean nuclear issue as one of the norms contributing to an operation of a concert of powers.

The Creation of Norms: Multilateralism and the Idea of Complete, Verifiable, and Irreversible Dismantlement

The creation and continuation of the 6PT made a multilateral approach a basic rule for tackling the North Korean nuclear issue. The nuclear negotiations established multilateralism as a norm, which enabled the proper operation of a concert-of-powers system.

Another important norm was also initiated through the 6PT. The Bush administration persistently reaffirmed that the North Korean nuclear issue should be solved through "complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement (CVID)." Washington made significant diplomatic efforts to obtain support for the CVID policy from other parties, particularly its traditional allies. For instance, the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group (TCOG) was key to achieving coordinated steps among the United States, South Korea, and Japan. Since the public revelation of North Korea's highly enriched uranium (HEU) program in October 2002, the role of the TCOG has focused on promoting the idea of CVID. Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo considered North Korea's HEU program a serious violation of the 1994 Agreed Framework, the NPT, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards agreement, and the 1992 ROK-DPRK Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Thus, through the TCOG meeting, the three allies concluded that North Korea should "dismantle this [HEU] program in a prompt and verifiable manner" (Boucher 2002). Eventually, the parties to the TCOG agreed to "continue to seek a complete, verifiable, and irreversible end to North Korea's nuclear weapons program through peaceful, diplomatic means" (Boucher 2003).

With regard to the characteristics of the second phase of the second North Korea nuclear issue, it is appropriate to see security under a concert-of-powers system as a key instrument for understanding its main features because major assumptions of the concert system can be verified. Nevertheless, despite its applicability, the notion fails to adequately explain why the United Nations emerged as a key player in dealing with the North Korean nuclear issue, and this shortcoming warrants our subsequent examination of the UN's collective sanctions against the DPRK after its nuclear test in 2006.

Collective Security

Unlike the earlier stages of the second North Korean nuclear crisis, the third phase saw UN engagement in the nuclear issue. North Korea's nuclear test in October 2006 provoked considerable reaction from the international community (outside the 6PT), represented by UNSC Resolution 1718. The UN engagement in the North Korean nuclear issue can be understood as a joint action at the global level to deal with a particular security issue. This section employs the concept of collective security as a key tool to interpret critical developments in the nuclear issue after North Korea's nuclear test.

International Security Under a Collective Security System

Collective security originated at the beginning of the twentieth century as a system to complement the old pattern of regular conferences among the powers, referred to as a concert of powers (Luard 1992). The idea of collective security assumes that the security dilemma of states can best be managed not through national self-help or a balance-of-power system but through the institutionalization of joint actions, whereby each nation agrees to join in mutual action against those who threaten the territorial integrity or political independence of others. Its central commitment is "all for one and one for all" (Evans and Newnham 1990). The first historical example of a collective security organization is the League of Nations, which was formally established as a result of the Versailles Treaty in 1919. (7) As a successor to the League of Nations, the United Nations can also be regarded as a collective-security organization. (8)

The study of regime theory and collective security by Legault, Desmartis, Fournier, and Thumerelle provides us with an explanation of a collective-security regime in the post-Cold War era. First, they underline the importance of regime theory for understanding collective security: "Regime theory makes it possible to explain the organization and dynamics of the collective system for managing and settling disputes because it assumes that states behave rationally and have mutual interests which induce them to co-ordinate their policies" (Legault et al., 1994-1995,77). Second, they insist that a collective-security regime could be defined as "the set of norms, rules, and methods that states agree to adopt to ensure peace and international security" (Legault et al., 1994-1995, 76). Eventually, with respect to the main players in such a regime, they identify the UN Security Council as a key player "in executing rules and procedures, for it is responsible for putting the norms and principles of the current collective security regime into practice" (Legault et al., 1994-1995, 80).

The following section offers an examination of UNSC Resolution 1718 using the notion of collective security discussed above.

The United Nations as a Collective-Security Organization

The UN Charter clearly embraces the idea of collective security and identifies the United Nations as a collective-security organization. Article 1 of the Charter describes its purpose: "to maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace" (United Nations 1945). Regarding the implementation of collective security in the United Nations, the UN Charter makes the UNSC the key player. For example, Article 39 of the charter provides the UNSC with the authority to "determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and ... decide what measures shall be taken" (United Nations 1945). Article 41 also gives the UNSC the power to determine a series of possible measures other than military force in order to manage international conflict. (9)

Based on the UN Charter, the UNSC has initiated collective actions in dealing with the North Korean nuclear issue. On October 9, 2006, North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that an underground nuclear test had been conducted successfully (Disarmament Documentation 2006). In response, on October 14, 2006, the UNSC adopted Resolution 1718, condemning North Korea's nuclear test and imposing sanctions on the DPRK. The UNSC perceived the North Korean nuclear test as "a clear threat to international peace and security" (United Nations Security Council 2006). UNSC Resolution 1718 called for collective sanctions against North Korea by all UN member states. Under Article 41 of the UN Charter, all the member states were called on to comply with the inspection of North Korean shipments, regardless of their port of origin. Resolution 1718 also required any North Korean funds related to the production or distribution of WMD, or to persons involved with such activities, to be frozen.

Regardless of the resolution's effectiveness, the collective sanctions it called for against North Korea demonstrate the motto of "all for one and one for all." This constitutes the essence of collective security because UNSC Resolution 1718 identified North Korea's provocation as a threat to international peace and security and required all UN members to take part in supervising the punishment of North Korea.

The Roles of the NPT Regime and the Six Party Talks

Alongside the UN sanctions, the NPT regime and the 6PT have key roles in organizing collective actions against North Korea. First, the nonproliferation norms have actually been utilized in formulating collective actions to deal with the North Korean nuclear issue. For example, the parties involved and the UNSC have maintained persistently, in line with the principal tenets of the NPT regime, that the Korean peninsula should be denuclearized in the interests of international stability and security. Moreover, the IAEA, which requires member states to maintain international safeguards to promote nonproliferation, has a role in verifying the disablement of North Korea's nuclear facilities.

In relation to organizing international security, it is notable that the UN Charter, in Article 52, clarifies that "nothing in the present Charter precludes the existence of regional arrangements or agencies for dealing with such matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security" (United Nations 1945). Reflecting on this perception, An Agenda for Peace points out that "in this new [post-Cold War] era of opportunity, regional arrangements or agencies can render great service if their activities are undertaken in a manner consistent with the Purposes and Principles of the Charter." (10) In this regard, bear in mind that UNSC Resolution 1718 clarified that all six parties need to make efforts for the continuation of the 6PT in order "to achieve the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and to maintain peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia" (United Nations Security Council 2006). In other words, despite the resolution's order to impose collective sanctions against North Korea, the task of finding a solution to the nuclear issue was left in the hands of the parties concerned. In short, although it may be controversial to categorize the NPT regime and the Six Party Talks as elements of a collective security system, both of them have played key roles in carrying out collective actions regarding the North Korean nuclear issue.

The evaluation of selected cases shows that the phase of the North Korean nuclear issue that led to UN engagement following North Korea's nuclear test in October 2006 can be understood in terms of collective security. Collective security may therefore be an important means of organizing regional security in the post-Cold War era, particularly in Northeast Asia.


The principal objective of this study was to examine the question of how regional security is organized in Northeast Asia in the post-Cold War era. The study explored the second North Korean nuclear crisis through the lens of different security models: a hegemonic power structure, a concert of powers, and a collective-security system. The North Korean case reveals that the second North Korean nuclear crisis went through very different phases that demonstrate their unique characteristics in regard to security models. The first phase can be understood through the notion of security under a hegemonic power structure; the second phase embodied a type of multilateralism best explained by a concert-of-powers model; and the third phase witnessed strong UN engagement, revealing the features of a collective-security system.

The research reveals that the security environment in Northeast Asia cannot be interpreted by considering a single security model but requires one to take into account many security concepts. The North Korean case shows that the complexity of the security environment in this region requires the consideration of multi-conceptual approaches for evaluating even a single security issue.


Byeong Cheol Mun is a researcher at the Center for Social Sciences, Seoul National University, Korea, specializing in the international relations and security of Northeast Asia in the post-Cold War era. His most recent publication is "To What Extent Has a Concert of Powers Emerged in Response to the Security Challenge in the Korean Peninsula?" Korean Journal of Security Affairs (June 2011). He can be reached at

(1.) This study focuses on the two terms in office of President George W. Bush (2001-2009), as the North Korean case has clearly demonstrated operations of different security models during those periods.

(2.) Libya is off this list now because it agreed to dismantle its nuclear program in December 2003. Iraq likewise is off the list since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

(3.) On June 12, 2003, eleven countries met in Madrid, Spain, and agreed to improve intelligence sharing and to begin training their militaries to intercept shipments suspected of carrying WMD and other illegally traded arms. The participating countries are the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, and Portugal.

(4.) An apparent PSI operation was accomplished in October 2003. The interception of a German-flagged vessel en route to Libya revealed a shipment of uranium enrichment components. See Younge (2004).

(5.) On September 15, 2005, the United States told the Macao-based Banco Delta Asia to choose between terminating its dealings with North Korea and losing access to US financial markets. Although the United States insisted that the issue was not on the agenda of the nuclear talks, North Korea cited the BDA issue as an obstacle to progress in them. Debate over the BDA issue froze the 6PT until the issue was finally settled on June 25, 2007.

(6.) Regarding the birth of the Six Party Talks, balance-of-interest theory gives an explanation of how the stability of the international system comes about. According to balance-of-interest theory, the balance of status-quo powers and-rising powers is essential for stabilizing the international system because what makes the international system stable is not the distribution of capabilities but the objectives of such capabilities. This interpretation can be used to describe cooperation between the United States and China in dealing with the North Korean nuclear issue. Nevertheless, we need to understand first of all that the 6PT not only includes the United States and China but also other regional actors in Northeast Asia. More important, with respect to organizing international security in the region, identifying what kind of regional order is emerging through the 6PT is critical. This article employs the notion of a concert-of-powers system to explain the characteristics of the 6PT. For the details of balance-of-interest theory, see Schweller 1994 and 1999.

(7.) Article 11 of the Covenant of the League of Nations contained the main idea of collective security by stating that "any war or threat of war, whether immediately affecting any of the Members of the League or not, is hereby declared a matter of concern to the whole League, and the League shall take any action that may be deemed wise and effectual to safeguard the peace of nations."

(8.) Article 1.1 of the UN Charter clearly embraces the notion of collective security by pointing to the necessity of taking "effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace." With respect to the provision of deterrence by collective security, critics assert that collective security will not be able to provide successful deterrence against an aggressor as previous attempts have not been successful. It is better, however, to leave criticism of collective security to other scholars. This article focuses on examining the applicability of the notion of collective security to a certain historical phase of the North Korean nuclear issue. For criticisms of collective security, see Aron and Smith 1954, Herz 1959, and Birn 1974.

(9.) In addition, the UN Charter assumes the possibility of direct military action by the United Nations. Article 43.1 states that "all members of the United Nations ... undertake to make available to the Security Council, on its call and in accordance with a special agreement or agreements, armed forces ... necessary for the purpose of maintaining international peace and security."

(10.) The UN Charter's Chapter VIII (Articles 52, 53, and 54) discusses regional arrangements in dealing with security matters. An Agenda for Peace, a report written by Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, describes the UN role in dealing with conflict in the post-Cold War world (Boutros-Ghali 1992).


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Date:Mar 22, 2012
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