Asia in Focus: Sue Terry on North Korean Brinkmanship

Georgetown SFS Asia Studies Program

Georgetown University, CCAS Boardroom (ICC 241)

January 19, 2018, 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm

What does North Korea want? It is the question upon which the peace and security of Northeast Asia—and of the United States itself—may hang. Is North Korea developing nuclear weapons and intercontinental delivery systems for offensive purposes—to chase the United States out of South Korea and extend its police state control across the entire Peninsula? Or is North Korea only developing weapons of mass destruction as a negotiating lever in order to be rewarded for freezing or even ending its program? Running alongside the debate over North Korean intentions is the debate over Kim Jong-un’s rationality. Is he a cold-blooded but calculating strongman who, like his father and grandfather, can be deterred from using his growing arsenal of nuclear weapons? If so, this would favor negotiating with North Korea. Or is he a callow and irrational megalomaniac who thinks that he could win a war against the United States? If the latter is true, then the case for a preventative strike is strengthened.

In this discussion, Dr. Terry will analyze these competing theories of North Korean behavior against the backdrop of what we know about the North's strategic goals and its long-term pursuit of nuclear weapons. She will discuss how North Korea's goals have been pursued by Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, and now Kim Jong-un, and how they remained consistent over the years. Not even the regime's literal bankruptcy has convinced the regime to change course, and for good reason: North Korea's brinkmanship tactics have paid off for the North by making possible the regime's survival for more than 60 years.

The discussion will conclude with a moderated question and answer session. This event is off-the-record, press is NOT permitted. A light lunch will be provided.

RSVP here:


Dr. Sue Mi Terry is Senior Fellow for Korea at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Prior to joining CSIS, she had a long and distinguished career in intelligence, policymaking, and academia following Korean issues.

Dr. Terry served as a Senior Analyst on Korean issues at the CIA from 2001 to 2008, where she produced hundreds of intelligence assessments--including a record number of contributions to the President’s Daily Brief, the Intelligence Community’s most prestigious product. From 2008 to 2009, Dr. Terry was the Director for Korea, Japan, and Oceanic Affairs at the National Security Council under both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. In that role, she formulated, coordinated, and implemented U.S. government policy on Korea and Japan, as well as Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania. From 2009 to 2010, she was Deputy National Intelligence Officer for East Asia at the National Intelligence Council. In that position, she led the US. Intelligence community’s production of strategic analysis on East Asian issues and authored multiple National Intelligence Estimates. From 2010 to 2011, Dr. Terry served as the National Intelligence Fellow in the David Rockefeller Studies Program at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Since leaving the government, she has been a Senior Research Scholar at Columbia University’s Weatherhead East Asian Institute (2011-2015) and Senior Adviser for Korea at BowerGroupAsia (2015-2017).

Dr. Terry is a frequent commentator on television and radio programs, including CNN, MSNBC, ABC, BBC, PBS, Fox News, Bloomberg News, National Public Radio, Voice of America, and Radio Free Asia, and a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, and other publications.

Sue holds a Ph.D. (2001) and a Masters of Arts (1998) in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from New York University (1993). 

View Original Invitation.