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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

U.S. and North Korea denuclearisation talks remained stalled while North Korea tested projectiles. Despite end June agreement to restart negotiations following meeting between U.S. President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in demilitarised zone between North and South Korea, stalemate in denuclearisation talks ongoing with no talks announced. North Korea 24 July conducted test of two short-range missiles and 31 July fired two more. U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton 23 July met with Korean officials in Seoul to discuss stalled talks as well as strengthening of South Korea-U.S. alliance. World Food Programme 24 July announced it had learned that North Korea intended to reject South Korea’s food aid program, announced in June and due to be delivered through UN agencies. Joint air exercise 23 July saw three Russian and two Chinese military planes fly over Dokdo islands in East Sea/Sea of Japan, claimed by both South Korea and Japan; South Korea scrambled jets and fired hundreds of warning shots after one of Russian planes violated its sovereign airspace. Russia denied violation of airspace but confirmed it took part in joint patrol with Chinese aircraft (see China/Japan). Exercise came amid deterioration in Japanese-South Korean relations, with National Security Advisor Chung Eui-yong 18 July saying govt could even reconsider sharing intelligence with Japan if bilateral situation worsens.

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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

Our People

Christopher Green

Senior Adviser, Korean Peninsula