North Korean Military Modernization: How Should Washington Respond?


North Korea’s seemingly rapid ascent to de facto nuclear weapons state with long-range missiles that threaten the U.S. homeland was no accident. 

Through decades of testing, countless starts and stops, and billions of dollars of research and development spending, Pyongyang has built a military capable of killing millions of people with a variety of weapons of mass destruction, advanced rockets and artillery platforms, and more. 

How did a country with such a broken economy and impoverished population achieve such military prowess? And what options does the United States have for containing and deterring this threat now and in the future, especially considering the potential ramifications of the upcoming presidential election in November? 

To answer these questions and more, the Center for the National Interest gathered a distinguished panel of speakers for a webinar discussion on September 28, 2020:  

  • Bruce Bennett is defense researcher at the RAND Corporation. He works primarily on research topics such as strategy, force planning, and counterproliferation within the RAND International Security and Defense Policy Center and the RAND Arroyo Strategy, Doctrine, and Resources Program. He is the author of Preparing for the Possibility of a North Korean Collapse as well as Alternative Paths to Korean Unification.
  • Gordon Chang is the author of Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World. 
  • James Holmes is the J. C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College. He is the author of numerous books, including Strategy in the Second Nuclear Age

Harry J. Kazianis, Senior Director of Korean Studies at the Center for the National Interest, served as the moderator of the discussion.