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

U.S. and South Korean conducted military drills as North Korea resumed missile testing, while Russia vetoed renewal of UN panel tasked with monitoring sanctions compliance. 

Following seasonal alliance military drills, Pyongyang launched missiles. U.S. and South Korea 4-14 March held annual Spring exercises, which passed off without dramatic North Korean response; this may indicate some form of distress inside North Korea – with domestic media focused on agricultural challenges – but there is chance North Korea may respond more forcefully to drills in coming months. Following exercises, leader Kim Jong Un 18 March supervised live-fire drill of multiple rocket launchers and Pyongyang same day fired three short-range ballistic missiles into waters off peninsula’s east coast. State media 20 March reported successful test of solid-fuel engine for intermediate-range hypersonic missile.

Russia wielded veto to block renewed mandate for UN Panel of Experts. Vote on renewal of UN Panel of Experts on North Korea sanctions – tasked with monitoring compliance with sanctions – was delayed and thrown into doubt after Russia 12 March proposed changes, including sunset clause for sanctions and reducing reporting period from every six months to annual. U.S. and its allies remain steadfast in opposition to alterations to sanctions or reporting framework, arguing sustained pressure on North Korea is essential. Russia 28 March vetoed renewal, ensuring panel’s mandate will expire 30 April; U.S. accused Russia of silencing body because it began reporting on “Russia’s blatant violations of the UN Security Council resolutions”. In further sign of Russia’s lack of sanctions enforcement and compliance, Financial Times 26 March reported that Russia 7 March began “first documented direct seaborne deliveries” of oil to North Korea in contravention of 2017 UN sanctions, possibly in part payment for munitions deliveries. 

South Korea issued stern warning against Pyongyang’s provocations. Speaking at ninth West Sea Defence Day, which commemorates North Korean provocations in West Sea, South Korean President Yoon 22 March cautioned Pyongyang against reckless provocations and emphasised resolve of South Korea govt and military to push back against aggression; Yoon also pledged to further enhance trilateral security cooperation with U.S. and Japan.

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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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