Korean Peninsula

Events on the Korean peninsula are among the most dramatic on the world stage. Amid cycles of rapprochement and disaffection between North and South, relations between Pyongyang and Washington careen back and forth from bellicosity to detente. At stake are not just North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs but also peace and security in North East Asia. China, the North’s most important ally, has cooperated in enforcing strict sanctions in an attempt to temper its partner’s bravado. But ultimately it prefers the status quo to the instability that would follow radical change. Crisis Group works to decrease the risk of war on the peninsula while advocating for creative solutions for all parties to implement as they pursue their long-term goals.

CrisisWatch Korean Peninsula

Unchanged Situation

South Korea hosted China and Japan at first trilateral summit since 2019, which North Korea protested by attempting fourth spy satellite launch in two years. 

Seoul hosted summit with China and Japan. Leaders of South Korea, Japan and China 26-27 May met in capital Seoul, marking first such meeting since 2019. In joint statement dominated by shared economic concerns, trio reconfirmed three issues – respectively reflecting China’s, South Korea’s and Japan’s concerns – regarding North Korea, saying that they “reiterated positions on regional peace and stability, denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the abductions issue”; all noted that “maintaining peace, stability and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia serves our common interest”. Pyongyang responded that discussion of denuclearisation was “insult never to be pardoned and a declaration of war”.

North Korea attempted satellite launch and launched missiles. Responding to first day of South Korea-hosted summit, which saw meeting between South Korea and Japan, North Korea 26 May announced its intention to launch a satellite (using banned ballistic missile technology) in window spanning 27 May to 4 June. Pyongyang next day launched satellite that failed due to technical issue; video taken by Japanese journalists from Chinese city of Dandong on North Korean border showed rocket exploding two minutes after launch. Leader Kim Jong-un 28 May condemned South Korea drills involving fighter jets near border. South Korea’s military 29 May reported around 260 North Korean balloons carrying waste were found countrywide, in apparent retaliation for South Korean activists flying leaflets across border into north. North Korea 30 May fired ten suspected short-range ballistic missiles into waters off east coast.

Seoul and Tokyo imposed sanctions on Russia-North Korea arms trade. Japan 25 May announced sanctions on eleven organisations and one individual linked to military cooperation between Pyongyang and Moscow, while South Korea same day designated “seven North Korean individuals and two Russian vessels” for “involvement in the provision of materials and financing for North Korea’s nuclear and missile development”.

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In The News

14 Sep 2023
We are in a situation where North Korea can rely on Russia and China more than has been the case in decades. BBC

Christopher Green

Senior Consultant, Korean Peninsula
13 Jan 2023
Politics is a full-contact sport in South Korea and there is no sign of any sort of balanced politics at the moment. DW

Christopher Green

Senior Consultant, Korean Peninsula

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Christopher Green

Senior Consultant, Korean Peninsula
Christopher Green

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