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On the Brink


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Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. The inheritance of Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in Korea; 2. North Korean strategic thoughts and risks of nuclear war; 3. The Obama era: from engagement to deterrence; 4. History's hinge point: the Clinton counterfactual; 5. President Trump and maximum pressure strategy; 6. Mimicking Pyongyang; 7. On the brink of nuclear war; 8. When will the war break out?; 9. How the crisis ended; 10. The risks of nuclear war.

Promotional Information

Former Pentagon insider Van Jackson explores how Trump and Kim reached - and avoided - the precipice of nuclear war.

About the Author

Van Jackson is a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Victoria University of Wellington, and the Defence and Strategy Fellow at the Centre for Strategic Studies. He served in the Obama administration as a policy adviser and strategist in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, participating in nuclear negotiations with North Korea and formulating deterrence policies with South Korea.


'Van Jackson has written an insightful, detailed, and frightening history of the Korean nuclear crisis. It is like a thriller with the sequel yet to be written. Readers will understand both how deeply dangerous the past few years have been and how many nuclear dangers remain lurking just over the horizon.' Scott D. Sagan, author of The Limits of Safety
'On the Brink is a smart, readable explanation of the nuclear crisis of 2017 - one that explains how Washington and Pyongyang found themselves on a collision course and one that offers sage advice about managing the risk of nuclear war in the future.' Jeffrey Lewis, author of The 2020 Commission Report on the North Korean Nuclear Attacks against the United States: A Speculative Novel
'On the Brink is a timely, serious, and substantive treatment of a perennial national security problem for the United States. Jackson successfully weaves theory, history, and policy into a book that makes every reader smarter on North Korea. Recommended reading not just for experts, but for general audiences.' Victor Cha, D. S. Song-KF Professor at Georgetown University, Washington DC, and former National Security Council director for Japan, Korea, Australia, and Pacific Island affairs
'With a deep sense of history, Van Jackson has given us a vital record of a near-disaster. Vigorous, wise, and highly informed, On the Brink decodes the theatrics and leaves the lessons inescapably clear for future generations.' Evan Osnos, author of The Age of Ambition
'A history that's as illuminating for the policymaker as it is for the informed citizen. If you want to know how close the world came to nuclear war in 2017 - and how to avoid it in the future - this is a must-read.' James Stavridis, Dean of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Massachusetts and Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe
'Van Jackson provides an excellent scholar-practitioner's guide to the history of US-North Korean misunderstanding and mutual hostility. He provides a clarion call regarding the scope and magnitude of the danger that surrounded the Trump administration's efforts to grapple for the first time with vulnerability to North Korean nuclear capabilities.' Scott Snyder, author of South Korea at the Crossroads
'A terrific and terrifying story of bumbling into a nuclear crisis because of unrealistic goals and a failure to understand North Korea. Van Jackson, a fine scholar of Korean affairs, has written a remarkable history that anyone wishing to avoid nuclear war - or make sense of North Korea - should read.' Robert Edwin Kelly, Pusan National University, South Korea

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