International Affairs

International Affairs


The views expressed by contributors to this blog are their own. The Mansfield Center encourages dialogue on issues of public policy. It does not take a position on any such issues.

April 28, 2021

U.S. Lacks the Strategic Empathy Required for Success with North Korea

By Robert McCoy
During a twenty-year career in the U.S. Air Force as an intelligence professional, Robert McCoy lived in East Asia for more than fourteen years. 

U.S. and North Korean Flags

The history of U.S. failures over the decades of dealing with North Korea is due to a single factor: the inability of too many diplomats and political advisers to understand Asia in general and North Korea in particular.

American failures over decades of dealing with North Korea are largely due to a single factor: the inability to understand Asia in general and North Korea in particular. Washington lacks strategic empathy, a term discussed in a paper published in 2014. Strategic empathy is simply the critical ability to perceive reality through the eyes of others, and to correctly perceive how they would likely act – or react – within the parameters of their own experiences, strengths, and weaknesses in any given context.