Diplomacy Through Imposition: U.S. Posture Towards Iran and North Korea




Sorter, Michael Stuart

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The nuclear capability of Iran and North Korea has been a concern for American policymakers for decades. Successive U.S. presidential administrations have used sanctions to impose their will on both nations, but the severity of these sanctions have not been equal. With North Korea, sanctions are typically minor, despite the real and present nuclear threat North Korea and its six nuclear tests present. However, with Iran, crippling sanctions are imposed as a preventative measure, even though the Middle Eastern nation has not tested a nuclear weapon to date. This unbalanced U.S. policy seems to indicate trust for North Koreans and distrust toward the Iranians. The question is: why? Through a comprehensive literature review and extensive primary source analysis, I argue the United States allows grudges over past altercations and the influence of third-party nations, such as Israel, China, and South Korea, to impact its foreign policy with Iran and North Korea. Whether to appease these third-party nations or to compete with them, the U.S. provides different postures toward Iran and North Korea that do not accurately respond to their levels of non-compliance. Furthermore, the research highlights that the intent of these sanctions are not solely related to nuclear deterrence. Questions of regional influence, religious fears, and economic factors are present as well. The paper concludes that these factors do not prioritize U.S. national security, and that a reevaluation of the conduct of U.S. foreign policy toward Iran and North Korea is past due.



North Korea, Iran, foreign policy, nuclear weapons, diplomacy, Israel, Middle East, Northeast Asia, Honors College


Sorter, M. S. (2019). Diplomacy through imposition: U.S. posture towards Iran and North Korea (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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