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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

South Korea, U.S. and UN imposed fresh sanctions on North Korea following its 29 Nov intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test. South Korea 10 Dec introduced sanctions against twenty North Korean individuals and companies, largely symbolic due to absence since 2010 of trade relations with Pyongyang. UN Security Council 22 Dec passed resolution requiring countries to expel North Korean workers and restricting North Korea’s access to refined petroleum products, crude oil and industrial machinery. U.S. 26 Dec sanctioned two officials it said were “key leaders” of North Korea’s missile program. China and Russia denied reports they had been transferring oil at sea to North Korea in recent months in violation of sanctions. South Korea and U.S. 2-8 Dec held largest-ever version of their Vigilant Ace combined air force drill. Japan 8 Dec announced plans to buy air-to-surface cruise missiles capable of striking North Korea, and Japan’s cabinet 19 Dec approved plans to purchase two U.S.-built anti-missile systems. U.S. Sec Defense Jim Mattis 15 Dec said North Korea’s ICBMs do not yet pose “capable threat” to continental U.S.. During state visit to China by South Korean President Moon 13-16 Dec, China and South Korea agreed to establish hotline and issued four-point list of principles for dealing with North Korea crisis, emphasising unacceptability of war, commitment to denuclearisation of peninsula, peaceful resolution of North Korea issue, and improved inter-Korean relations; agreed to disagree about presence of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) U.S. missile defence system in South Korea. Chinese Premier Li said he anticipates “springtime” for bilateral ties with S Korea.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

9 Jan 2018
If [North Korea] wants to drive a wedge into the alliance between the U.S. and South Korea, [sending its athletes to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics] could just be their opening gambit. The Washington Post

Christopher Green

Senior Advisor, Korean Peninsula
29 Dec 2017
[The United Nations Security Council's resolution 2397 on North Korea] was not a game-changer. [It] does not do much more than build on previous resolutions, all with one eye on the future. The Diplomat

Christopher Green

Senior Advisor, Korean Peninsula
1 Dec 2017
Beijing is probably worried that applying sanctions too strictly could destabilize North Korea and doesn't want to take that risk. CNBC

Michael Kovrig

Senior Adviser, North East Asia
29 Nov 2017
No American administration should formally accept a nuclear North Korea, but policy needs to change to reflect the reality on the ground. Bloomberg

Christopher Green

Senior Advisor, Korean Peninsula
21 Nov 2017
[Having his advisers compete with each other suits the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un just fine]. It is hardwired into autocracy to have underlings in competition. Reuters

Christopher Green

Senior Advisor, Korean Peninsula
15 Nov 2017
North Korea has always had an interest in developing sporting talent — that’s not new — but the focus on football seems to be new. The New York Times

Christopher Green

Senior Advisor, Korean Peninsula

Latest Updates

Op-Ed / Asia

What Will China Do if the U.S. Attacks North Korea?

During a speech at the United Nations General Assembly on 19 September 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump warned that if North Korea threatened the United States or its allies, he would “totally destroy” the nation. As tensions continue to rise between Washington and Pyongyang, is Beijing growing more or less likely to intervene in a conflict between the United States and North Korea? Senior Adviser for North East Asia Michael Kovrig shares his view with ChinaFile.

Originally published in ChinaFile

Commentary / Asia

The Strategic Thinking behind North Korea’s Missile Gambit

North Korea’s launch of a missile over Japan was irresponsible – yet it was more of a carefully calculated risk than a reckless gamble. Pyongyang’s goal is not a shooting war but to build up military and nuclear capabilities that serve strategic aims of survival and force protection.

Report / Asia

North Korea: Beyond the Six-Party Talks

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.

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Christopher Green

Senior Advisor, Korean Peninsula