Most analyses of North Korea implicitly interpret security, foreign and defence policy making through the rational actor model of Graham Allison’s classic formulation, in that they assume a single entity that makes and implements policy. Underlying North Korea’s security policy is the understanding of international relations as constituted by a hard version of the concept of sovereignty. Sovereignty also implies for North Korean security planners a zero-sum game with other states. The stable pattern of international relations in which North Korea framed its security calculations during the Cold War was only once questioned by North Korean foreign policy makers. Alliances with Russia and China were reconstituted but not with the same level of uncritical support as during the Cold War. North Korea is a poor country with a decrepit industrial structure and a workforce that has been largely excluded from modern scientific developments since the end of the Cold War.