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

North Korea tested ballistic missiles, including as part of “nuclear counterattack” drills, as Seoul warned of another spy satellite launch by Pyongyang; President Yoon suffered heavy setback in South Korea’s election.

North Korea continued weapons testing, including nuclear-capable missiles. North Korea 2 April launched hypersonic intermediate range ballistic missile, as state media implied likelihood of further such launches to come. North Korean state media 20 April reported “a power test of a super-large warhead designed for ‘Hwasal-1 Ra-3’ strategic cruise missile”. Pyongyang 22 April launched several short-range ballistic missiles into East Sea, saying launches were part of “virtual comprehensive tactical training for a nuclear attack”; Pyongyang indicated targets in South Korea in event of “nuclear counterattack” in “clear warning signal to the enemy”, underscoring its intent to acquire ability to strike South Korea with nuclear weapons using multiple systems. South Korea 22 April claimed it had detected evidence that North Korea is preparing for its second spy satellite launch after first successful launch in Nov.

Evidence of Pyongyang’s ongoing nuclear armament surfaced. Media reports based on satellite imagery late March indicated North Korea continued to expand industrial site in Chollima county, widely believed to be used for uranium enrichment for nuclear weapons production, further illustrating its commitment to production of nuclear devices following collapse of talks with U.S. in 2019; leader Kim Jong Un in Dec 2023 called for “steadily increasing the production of nuclear weapons”. 

South Korea’s President Yoon received stinging electoral rebuke. President Yoon, leader of People’s Power Party, suffered defeat in legislative election on 10 April, as main opposition Democratic Party secured 175 seats compared to ruling party’s 108; outcome underscores desire among electorate to introduce measure of balance to political landscape. 

North Korean economic delegation visited Iran. North Korea dispatched economic delegation to Iran, state media reported 24 April; move follows trend of expanding economic exchanges with China and Russia, but also raises long-standing concerns over military cooperation between Pyongyang and Tehran.

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In The News

14 Set 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 Gen 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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