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Korean Scenarios: Alternative Futures for the Korean Peninsula

Nicholas Eberstadt

This exercise presents alternative "scenarios" for future outcomes in what is becoming a perennial feature of the Korean geo-political landscape: the continuing nuclear proliferation threat posed by North Korea (DPRK). "Scenario-building" posits state actors’ intentions and capabilities in broad and stylized strokes in order to focus upon plausible outcomes, in the hope of stimulating further thought about under-contemplated strategic problems and opportunities. This chapter examines six distinct alternative futures for the North Korean nuclear drama: 1) an indefinite continuation of the current ongoing spectacle; 2) a successfully negotiated and credible dismantlement of the North Korean nuclear effort; 3) a DPRK "virtual nuclear breakout;" 4) a de facto "nuclear breakout" by Pyongyang; 5) an internal collapse of the North Korean regime; and 6) military conflict between the DPRK and its neighbors due to North Korean nuclear diplomacy.