The Nuclear Taboo Revisited: The North Korean Nuclear Crisis and Constitutive Antagonism
Abstract: This study reevaluates the subject of nuclear nonproliferation and
North Korea's nuclear crisis. It is prompted by two major questions: Why does North Korea
resist international calls for its denuclearization, and how has it rationalized its
pursuit of nuclear weapons programs? This study rejects the views that North Korea's
pursuit of nuclear weapons is merely a flagrant violation o... read moref the near-universal moral
principle or an isolated act of irrationality. Instead, this study examines the dynamic
workings of negative identification and negative interaction through which North Korea
came to rationalize its pursuit of a nuclear weapons program tabooed by the international
community. Taking the constructivist approach, which posits that identities and interests
figure prominently in interstate interactions, this study hypothesizes that North Korea's
negative identification and negative interactions with the outside world increased
Pyongyang's anxiety about its position in a hostile environment and its mistrust of
multilateral dialogues as a means of resolving crises, leading to it rationalizing its
decision to become a nuclear weapons state, rather than internalizing the nuclear taboo
through collective identity formation. In order to address the questions of how and why
negative interactions and negative identification have influenced North Korea's nuclear
choice and the outcome of the nuclear talks, this study presents the process of
dialectical development of the nuclear crisis, examining the factors that constituted the
antagonisms that shaped North Korea's adversarial relationship with others and caused its
noncompliant attitudes. Then, it discusses the theoretical, practical, and policy
implications of these findings to the ongoing nuclear crisis by addressing the reemergence
of the antagonistic structure that produced the process of temporal compromise and setback
from the nuclear talks. In the conclusion, it highlights the key findings of this study
and provides suggestions for future studies.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2012.
Submitted to the Dept. of Diplomacy, History, and Politics.
Advisors: Ian Johnstone, and William Martel.
Committee: Sung-Yoon Lee.
Keyword: International relations.read less