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Preparing for Change in North Korea: Shifting Out of Neutral
Region: Asia
Location: Korea, North
Published April 1, 2011
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This study was undertaken to assess possible futures for the North Korean regime and the Korean peninsula that could affect U.S. and regional interests, and to consider which U.S. and regional strategies and policy actions could both prepare for possible outcomes and shape those outcomes to better serve U.S. interests.

The goals for the project included:

1. Understand regime change, instability, and unification scenarios that could emerge in North Korea;

2. Provide decision makers with insights into the situation described in no. 1, above; and

3. Outline policy recommendations for a strategic concept and discrete actions to help navigate these scenarios successfully.

As a way of shaping our analysis, we asked which challenges have impaired existing efforts to plan for North Korean regime futures. Although North Korean futures are clearly nonlinear and unpredictable, this reality also accounts for the first challenge we face in making policy toward North Korea: the unknowability of the North Korean scenario too often paralyzes strategic thinking.

Current approaches to regime futures remain largely passive, as if awaiting a natural disaster. An alternative would be to understand the situation to the best degree possible and then to take an active, strategic approach to it—not only in the preparation for possible contingencies but also in the attempt to shape events between today and the time when they emerge.

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