Alliance Credibility and Nuclear Proliferation



Jooeun Kim, CISAC

Date and Time

February 2, 2017 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM


Open to the public.

No RSVP required


Encina Hall, 2nd floor

Abstract: In international politics, the division between allies and adversaries appears quite clear. For example, it is conventional wisdom that North Korea is China’s ally and South Korea is the United States’ ally. In proliferation literature, the main catalyst for nuclear proliferation is threats from adversaries, while an ally’s nuclear umbrella mitigates the threat and willingness to proliferate. However, in reality the division between a credible ally and threatening foe is less clear-cut. Contrary to conventional wisdom, security threats alone do not trigger the decision of an ally to develop its indigenous nuclear weapons program. In other words, security could be a necessary condition for wanting the nuclear bomb, but it is not a sufficient condition for starting an indigenous program. Rather, the sense of abandonment or clashes of national interests between two friendly states triggers a state to pursue an indigenous weapons program. Using newly available declassified documents to conduct process tracing, and comparing the decision-making in the cases of China and South Korea, I show that Chinese and South Korean nuclear weapons programs were triggered not by their foes, the U.S and North Korea, respectively, but by their friends, the Soviet Union and the U.S. 

About the Speaker: Jooeun Kim is a MacArthur Nuclear Security Predoctoral fellow at CISAC for 2016-17. She is completing her PhD in international relations at Georgetown University’s Department of Government. She studies credibility, alliance management, and nuclear proliferation within military alliances.

Her dissertation examines the credibility of a patron ally as the source of a protégé ally’s nuclear decisions, through analyzing allies’ behaviors during international crises.

She completed an MA in Government at Georgetown University, an MA in International Affairs at George Washington University, and a BA in Political Science at Waseda University, Japan. She speaks Korean, Japanese, and Chinese.

Outside of her dissertation writing, she is a certified yoga instructor and enjoys sculling on the Potomac River. 

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