ABSTRACT

The foreign policy behaviour of North Korea is one of the most intriguing, captivating and sometimes frustrating aspects of global politics in general and of the international relations of East Asia in particular. A hereditary communist dictatorship, one of the largest standing armies in the world, a relatively stagnant economy, a Confucian mentality, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and, of course, nuclear capability, make it a unique country. Its location in the middle of one of the most economically successful and dynamic regions in the world, which is also home to two countries in possession of nuclear weapons, and where the only current superpower, the USA, retains a large military presence, confer North Korea with strategic importance due to its mere existence. Its involvement in the proliferation of WMD and nuclear materials, links with several Middle Eastern governments, and a continuous ability to resist diplomatic and economic pressure from the USA make North Korea relevant at the global level as a result of its behaviour. The fact that North Korea has proved to be one of the most impenetrable countries in the world for academics, journalists and intelligence officials alike has served to create a certain mystique around it.