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Hypothesizing Kim Jong-un: A Framework for Analyzing North Korean Behavior
Author: Bryan Port
Region: Asia
Location: Korea, North
Published June 5, 2019
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A coherent North Korea strategy must proceed from a theory of North Korean politics, strategy, and decision-making. Structured analytic techniques, particularly the analysis of competing hypotheses (ACH), are instrumental in developing a theory and strategy. North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs serve a blend of internal and external purposes. A successful strategy that renders North Korean denuclearization must account for both types of purposes, determining which of the two are predominant. Applying ACH can assist in making such an assessment, setting a level of confidence, designing a strategy, and determining measures to assess the analytic foundation of the strategy and the measures used in executing the strategy. This paper tees up four potential hypotheses intended to explore North Korean intentions and assist in developing strategy. However, the intention of the paper is not primarily to make a case for a given hypothesis, but rather to explore the method in the hope that others may find the method useful and apply it to the important undertaking of North Korean denuclearization.

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