from Center for Preventive Action

Military Escalation in Korea

Contingency Planning Memorandum No. 10

November 9, 2010

Contingency Planning Memorandum
Contingency Planning Memoranda identify plausible scenarios that could have serious consequences for U.S. interests and propose measures to both prevent and mitigate them.

More on:

Conflict Prevention

North Korea

South Korea

Nuclear Energy

Overview

Further provocations by North Korea as well as other dangerous military interactions on or around the Korean Peninsula remain a serious risk and carry the danger of unintended escalation. Moreover, changes underway in North Korea could precipitate new tensions and herald a prolonged period of instability that raises the possibility of military intervention by outside powers. This Center for Preventive Action Contingency Planning Memorandum by Paul Stares analyzes potentially dangerous crises that could erupt in Korea due to the atmosphere of recrimination and mistrust that exists between North and South; the possibility of provocative, domestically driven North Korean behavior; and the potential for a troubled succession process in Pyongyang. Stares concludes that the United States has a strong and abiding interest in ensuring that another Korean war not be ignited and provides recommendations to reduce the risk of unwanted military escalation on the Korean Peninsula.

Paul B. Stares
Paul B. Stares

General John W. Vessey Senior Fellow for Conflict Prevention and Director of the Center for Preventive Action

Download the list of clashes in the Korean Peninsula between 1955 and 2010 [PDF].

More on:

Conflict Prevention

North Korea

South Korea

Nuclear Energy

Top Stories on CFR

Genocide and Mass Atrocities

Thirty years ago, Rwanda’s government began a campaign to eradicate the country’s largest minority group. In just one hundred days in 1994, roving militias killed around eight hundred thousand people. Would-be killers were incited to violence by the radio, which encouraged extremists to take to the streets with machetes. The United Nations stood by amid the bloodshed, and many foreign governments, including the United States, declined to intervene before it was too late. What got in the way of humanitarian intervention? And as violent conflict now rages at a clip unseen since then, can the international community learn from the mistakes of its past?

Economics

The IMF and World Bank’s spring meetings will focus on the prospects for a soft landing after years of global economic turbulence. But major challenges remain, including growing climate finance needs and persistently high global debt levels.

South Korea

The center-left Democratic Party added to its legislative majority after the recent parliamentary election, which would deal a blow to President Yoon Suk Yeol’s domestic reform agenda and possibly his efforts to improve ties with Japan.