Deterrence by Denial: Chapter 6

A year ago, we published Deterrence by Denial, a highly acclaimed collection of essays that, according to Professor Jeffrey W. Knopf, “provides a long overdue exploration of deterrence by denial, which has always received less attention than deterrence by punishment.” The book, which assembles what Sir Lawrence Freedman calls a “stellar collection of contributors,” is and will continue to be a critical resource for students and scholars alike. To celebrate the anniversary of its publication, we’re publishing excerpts from each chapter. This is an excerpt from Chapter 6: “Denying North Koreaby Professor Jonathan Trexel.

In Northeast Asia, the threat from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is formidable: it has large numbers of offensive ballistic missiles, it may possess missile-capable nuclear weapons, and it has a propensity for aberrant or provocative behavior (e.g., export of nuclear and missile technology, military violence against its neighbors). The DPRK’s large stockpile of missiles means that it can, in a matter of minutes, endanger military, civil, and economic targets in neighboring countries like Japan. The North Korean security posture and coercive power-based approach to diplomatic and economic relations today are undergirded by its ballistic missiles. North Korea may have as many as 1,000 ballistic missiles in the field on 200 reloadable launchers. Coercion is simply pressuring an actor to do something it does not wish to do. For North Korea, coercive tactics such as provocations—including missile flight tests—and other malign behavior are used against Japan to weaken US-Japan allied cohesion; decouple Japanese support for US force presence and crisis staging; extract diplomatic or financial and trade concessions and postwar reparations; attain relief from varied sanctions; undermine a multiparty negotiating posture in nuclear weapons talks in which Japan has participated; and influence Japanese intra-war decisions by showing risk tolerance, even unpredictability. Ballistic missile defense (BMD) can serve to counter coercion. However, whereas DPRK possession of ballistic missiles casts a threatening shadow to coerce Japan and others including those below the threshold of armed conflict, Japanese development and possession of advanced BMD technology provides Japan a potential deterrence-by-denial offset.

The thesis in this chapter is that one can counter an adversary’s coercion strategy by deterring the use or employment of their means of coercion. More specifically, North Korea’s principal means of coercion has been ballistic missiles and their testing; Japan’s counter-coercion strategy was to deter North Korean use and employment of its missiles through development and deployment of highly credible missile defense technologies, thereby significantly denying North Korea its perceived benefits and objectives. This chapter will briefly describe and analyze Japan’s deterrence strategy against DPRK coercive behavior from a theoretic and practical view. It presents BMD technology as a unique case study of deterrence by denial against ballistic missile-based coercion below the threshold of armed conflict. Unlike other deterrence cases, the post–Cold War Japan-DPRK relationship considers deterrence of a nuclear-armed state by a non-nuclear-armed state; deterrence in the absence of offensive kinetic military cost-imposition capabilities; and, deterrence effectiveness under “general deterrence” conditions below the threshold of armed conflict.5 The chapter begins with an overview of deterrence and missile defense theory. Next, the two principal actors are reviewed in context of the Japan-DPRK relationship. Lastly, the chapter further unpacks the deterrence-by-denial dynamics of Japan’s BMD system with respect to DPRK behavior. BMD is not Japan’s only technology or means of deterrence, but it is its principal means of deterring coercion by ballistic missile threats.

Jonathen Trexel

Deterrence by Denial: Theory and Practice edited by Alex Wilner and Andreas Wegner is available in hardcover. It is also available in different ebook formats, which start at $19.99 to purchase and $9.99 to rent. Professors who wish to use this book along with others in the Rapid Communications in Conflict and Security Series for their classes should use the Cambria Book Cloud, which allows for the bundling of ebooks at only $9.99 per title for each student.

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