The Gray Zone Strategy of Northeast Asian States and South Korea’s Bespoke Counter-Measures
(Korea Institute for Maritime Strategy)
In Northeast Asia, gray zone coercion, characterized by ambiguity and strategic gradualism, has been underway over the past decades. The riddle of the gray zone in the region, however, remains understudied and inexplicable. South Korea is ill-equipped to wrestle with the gray zone strategy of North Korea, China and Japan. The gray zone strategy is intended to change the status-quo not only by intervening in the areas of sovereignty but also by posing a gradually bigger threat while reducing the risk of outbreak of
war. North Korea has engaged in gray zone coercion to neutralize the Northern Limit Line. North Korea also has become a nuclear-armed state by strategic gradualism and is currently seeking a fait accompli to make itself a nuclear power. China sought to intervene in South Korea’s sovereign decisions through its economic retaliation in the context of the deployment of the U.S. THAAD in South Korea. China continues to employ gray zone coercion in areas of waters and maritime airspace. Japan vowed to challenge South Korea’s sovereignty on the ground of the latter’s Supreme Court’s order to pay compensation while restricting the shipments of key materials to South Korea. In addition, strategic gradualism allowed Japan to exercise its right of collective self-defense, approaching a “normal nation.”
Under these challenges, South Korea needs to design a “black and white” strategy to cast aside rampant gray zone. To that end, there is an urgent need for South Korea to roll out gray zone deterrence and to dramatically revamp its military.
KeyWords:Gray Zone Strategy, North Korea Nuclear Program, NLL, KADIZ, Dokdo