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Korean Peninsula

The recent exchange of aggressive rhetoric between North Korea and the U.S. over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions and missile program has been one of the most vitriolic to date, posing a serious threat to security in the region and beyond. North Korea continues to violate UN resolutions as it accelerates its nuclear program and carries out ballistic missile tests at a quickened pace. Beijing, its most important ally and trading partner, is frustrated by its neighbour’s policy but prefers continuity of the status quo to the instability that would follow radical change. Crisis Group works to decrease the risk of nuclear and conventional war on the peninsula while directing our regional and global advocacy at identifying opportunities for cooperation between stakeholders on all sides.

CrisisWatch Korean Peninsula

Unchanged Situation

Positive statements by U.S. and North Korean officials during month signalled potential for revival of bilateral dialogue, despite North Korea launching another test of short-range missile early Sept. North Korea 10 Sept launched two short range missiles, similar to launches in July and Aug. In 6 Sept speech, U.S. Special Representative Stephen Biegun signalled greater flexibility concerning U.S.’s North Korea policy. U.S. President Trump 20 Sept said he is open to “new method” in future talks; North Korean media same day reported Pyongyang’s chief negotiator Kim Myong-gil welcomed Trump’s comments. Trump 23 Sept held out possibility of another summit with Kim Jong-un, which observers fear could reduce the likelihood of working-level dialogue. South Korean President Moon 23 Sept met with Trump, reportedly advocating for creation of denuclearisation roadmap and stating Seoul’s objectives to strengthen U.S.-South Korean alliance. North Korea responded angrily, accusing U.S. of intervening in inter-Korean affairs, but statement from veteran North Korean official Kim Kye-gwan’s 27 Sept indicated North Korea keen to arrange third summit with U.S.. Chinese customs figures released mid-Sept showed steadily rising trend of oil exports to North Korea, suggesting ambivalent Chinese enforcement of international sanctions on North Korea.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

14 Mar 2019
Any US government that is serious about making headway with NK in negotiations should be quietly funding info freedom activities as well. Twitter

Christopher Green

Senior Adviser, Korean Peninsula
28 Feb 2019
For the U.S., it would be politically unacceptable and a terrible idea to trade all economic sanctions for the dismantlement of Yongbyon, as Kim seems to have demanded. Reuters

Christopher Green

Senior Adviser, Korean Peninsula
28 Feb 2019
The @realDonaldTrump and @SecPompeo presser this afternoon was revealing, & seems to give contours of a path forward. For one thing, Trump emphasized productivity of discussion and positivity of tone on all sides. Doesn't mean it wasn't a setback, but talks will likely continue. Twitter

Christopher Green

Senior Adviser, Korean Peninsula
4 Jan 2019
A relatively modest trade would help kickstart a more meaningful diplomatic process [between the U.S. and North Korea]. A verified shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear facility wouldn’t end North Korea’s program but it could be significant. Washington Examiner

Stephen Pomper

Senior Director of Policy
23 Sep 2018
The [U.S.] president is prepared to bluster and threaten, but he also wants to achieve the deal of the century. With North Korea, it worked because he had a willing partner. The problem he’s going to face with Iran is that the leaders there believe a meeting would validate his strategy The New York Times

Robert Malley

President & CEO
26 Jul 2018
Broadly speaking, one side [the U.S.] wants denuclearization first, normalization of relations later, and the other [North Korea] wants normalization of relations first, then denuclearization later. Reuters

Christopher Green

Senior Adviser, Korean Peninsula

Latest Updates

Briefing / United States

Time for a Modest Deal: How to Get U.S.-North Korean Talks Moving Forward

Last June’s U.S.-North Korean summit cleared the atmosphere, but follow-up talks have accomplished little, meaning that dark clouds could easily gather again. To jump-start progress, negotiators should start small, moving incrementally toward realising the long-term goals of Washington, Pyongyang and Seoul.

Commentary / Asia

Getting the U.S. in Step with the Koreas’ Diplomatic Dance

A new round of inter-Korean diplomacy commenced 18 September as the North and South Korean leaders met for a three-day summit. Meanwhile, U.S.-North Korean relations are reverting to previous bad form. Washington should welcome Seoul’s help in restarting productive contacts with Pyongyang.

Also available in 简体中文
Commentary / Asia

After the Trump-Kim Summit: Now Comes the Hard Part

Last week the world watched the first-ever meeting between a North Korean leader and a U.S. president. Crisis Group offers a 360-degree view of how the summit played in the U.S., the Korean peninsula, China and Japan – and what it may mean going forward.

Also available in 简体中文
Op-Ed / United States

Why Trump Should Take It Slow With Kim Jong Un

Any successful deal with North Korea will require an extraordinary amount of patience and attention to detail.

Originally published in Politico Magazine

Report / United States

Deep Freeze and Beyond: Making the Trump-Kim Summit a Success

The greatest risk to the 12 June summit between the U.S. and North Korea is mismatched expectations. To avoid a return to escalatory rhetoric, both parties should keep hopes modest and adopt an action-for-action approach as part of a four-step plan for denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula.

Also available in 한국어, 简体中文

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Christopher Green

Senior Adviser, Korean Peninsula