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.
Symbolism and substance combined to make the 27 April meeting between the North and South Korean presidents a momentous occasion. Much needs to be done to overcome scepticism from past failures, but the concrete timeline the two countries laid out in the Panmunjom Declaration could lead to transformative steps.
Month saw important moves toward rapprochement between North and South Korea with 27 April joint summit, which saw Kim Jong-un becoming first North Korean leader to set foot in South Korea for historic meeting with President Moon. Kim called meeting “starting point” for peace process and pledged “new history” for two countries; leaders issued joint statement committing to seek “complete denuclearisation” of peninsula; agreed to regular phone calls, to meet in Pyongyang later in year, to work on issues including family reunifications and transport links, and to suspend loudspeaker broadcasts and other propaganda across borders. China and U.S. welcomed agreement. Ahead of summit, North Korean state news agency (KCNA) 21 April announced Pyongyang’s suspension of all nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests on grounds it had achieved “nuclear weaponisation”, reported North Korea would close Punggye-ri underground nuclear test site – although conclusions of Chinese study released 23 April, revealing partial collapse of site in Sept 2017, cast doubt among observers on Pyongyang’s motivations. Earlier in month, Kim attended concert given by delegation of South Korean musicians who travelled to Pyongyang 31 March-3 April, met musicians and accompanying South Korean politicians. KCNA 10 April for first time publically acknowledged ongoing dialogue with U.S. when it cautioned dissenting voices against spoiling nascent atmosphere of reconciliation. U.S. President Trump 18 April reported Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Pyongyang 30 March-1 April for talks at “extremely high levels” to prepare for Trump-Kim summit; said U.S. will continue campaign of “maximum pressure” until North Korea agrees to denuclearisation. Seoul reported that Kim offered to invite foreign experts to witness decommissioning of nuclear test site ahead of meeting with Trump.
A nightmarish Korean peninsula war is closer than at any time in recent history. In the first of a two-part series, Crisis Group examines the interests and calculations of the states most affected or involved: North Korea, the U.S., South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.
Brinksmanship on the Korean peninsula threatens a potentially catastrophic military escalation. In this second report of a two-part series, Crisis Group lays out the steps to de-escalate the crisis and buy time for a more durable solution.
Prospects are bleak that the Six-Party Talks can lead to a denuclearised Korean peninsula, notably since North Korea has made nuclear weapons an integral part of its identity. The international community must open new channels of communication and interaction, give greater roles to international organisations, the private sector and civil society.
In the shadow of growing North Korean threats, South Korea needs to reform its intelligence apparatus to restore public confidence while enhancing the country’s intelligence capacity.
North Korea’s belligerent behaviour is testing the patience of China, its principal backer, but a consequential Chinese policy change, which the U.S. and its allies hope for, is not likely soon.
Despite last week’s abrupt shuffle at the top of the military leadership, Kim Jŏng-ŭn appears to be firmly established as the new leader of North Korea, completing a faster and smoother power transition than many experts anticipated.
I don’t think it benefits North Korea to appear be too much of a cheap date. It ill behooves them to have everyone thinking that they are desperate.
China is the only state willing and able to immediately ease North Korea’s economic burden.
Regional players need to push for a concrete, achievable agenda, with realistic expectations [ahead of the U.S.-North Korea summit].
There is a risk that the U.S. and North Korea will come together with unrealistic expectations, expecting that all will be achieved in a one and done meeting.
North Korea is attempting to destabilise the [South Korea]-U.S. alliance, destabilise the international consensus on sanctions focused on the UN, and destabilise South Korean politics and society.
[North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's] goal is to do enough on the inter-Korean front to get the United States and North Korea to jaw-jaw. The real strategic games have only just begun.
After weeks in which other actors have taken notable steps towards defusing fears of war over North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile program, a China-North Korea summit held 26-27 March in Beijing has reasserted China’s pivotal role in efforts to find a solution to the nuclear crisis.
The 2018 Winter Olympic Games, together with the 70th anniversary of both North and South Korea, represents an opportunity for diplomacy to help reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
The opening of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games represents an opportunity for diplomacy to help reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
The Trump administration should take advantage of the Games to promote a peaceful solution to the impasse with North Korea.
Originally published in Politico