The U.S. policy of strategic patience with North Korea is finished. But direct U.S. talks with Pyongyang, conditioned on a nuclear & missile testing freeze, intrusive inspections, & a ban on transfers to third parties, could be best U.S. option, writes CFR President Richard N. Haass.
In a matter of weeks, all of China’s fears have come to a head on the Korean Peninsula. At an airport in Malaysia in mid-February, the exiled half-brother of North Korea’s ruler was assassinated with a nerve agent, reminding the world that the Hermit Kingdom is run by a paranoid and violent regime. Closer to home, North Korea conducted two rounds of ballistic missile tests in stark violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
North Korean sanctions evasion has largely eviscerated the intent and impact of UN sanctions resolutions designed to block international financial and material support for North Korean nuclear and missile development efforts. Aside from the obvious Chinese loophole, the assassination of Kim Jong Nam has shone a bright light on another major portal for North Korean illicit actions and sanctions evasion: Malaysia.
In a testimony to the Senate committee on foreign relations, Scott A. Snyder provided an assessment of the threat posed by North Korea and listed a number of policy options that the United States can pursue. Snyder argued that the window of opportunity to achieve North Korea’s peaceful denuclearization may have closed. He argued that the Donald Trump administration should appoint a senior envoy for North Korea, seek to spur internal debates among North Korean elites over the costs of North Korea’s nuclear development, and maintain diplomatic dialogue with North Korea in order to spell out clearly the parameters for managing the relationship and expectations for North Korean behavior while strengthening deterrence and applying international pressure.
During his annual New Year’s address on Sunday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s dropped a bombshell: He stated as part of his review of the past year's accomplishments that North Korea has entered “the final stage in preparations to test-launch” an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). One that could hit the United States. To deal with the threat, the Trump administration should strengthen sanctions and find a way to work with China or, at a minimum, should isolate North Korea as an essential area of cooperation in an otherwise contentious U.S.-China relationship.
North Korea’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons poses a great danger to Northeast Asia and the United States. Washington should pursue policies that will induce Beijing to exert more pressure on its neighbor, says retired Admiral Mike Mullen.
A new Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) Independent Task Force report, A Sharper Choice on North Korea: Engaging China for a Stable Northeast Asia, finds that the United States’ policy of “strategic patience” with North Korea will neither halt that country’s recurring and dangerous cycle of provocation nor ensure the stability of Northeast Asia in the future. To the contrary, the Task Force warns, “If allowed to continue, current trends will predictably, progressively, and gravely threaten U.S. national security interests and those of its allies.”
North Korea’s accelerating nuclear and missile programs, including its recent nuclear test, pose a grave and expanding threat to security, stability and peace in Asia and the rest of the world. This threat affects close U.S. allies — South Korea and Japan — and U.S. personnel and facilities in the region. In the coming months and years, it will create increasing danger for the United States.
Because North Korea thrives in the gap created by Sino-U.S. strategic mistrust and the most dangerous threat to the Kim Jong-un regime’s legitimacy comes from South Korea, the most effective way of conveying to him that his regime’s survival depends on denuclearization would be through coordination of a trilateral strategy among the United States, China, and South Korea., writes CFR Senior Fellow Scott Snyder.
North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January and long-range rocket launch in February drew global opposition in the form of UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution 2270 and condemnation by regional leaders. Pyongyang promptly dismissed such calls with a series of short- and mid-range missile launches in March and April.
The more vulnerable Kim Jong Un feels atop a weakening North Korea, the more he seeks a silver bullet to ensure the regime's long-term survival. On May 6, Kim may enjoy a Korean Worker's Party conference that will celebrate his achievements and consolidate his rule. He may even think that his nuclear deterrent has bought time and saved money that can be used to improve North Korea's economy. But the regime's own systemic need to generate instability as a primary means of exerting domestic political control guarantees that the young leader will never have enough nuclear weapons to achieve absolute security, writes Scott Snyder, senior fellow for Korea studies and director of the program on U.S.-Korea policy at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
A frank conversation between China and the United States about the future of the Korean peninsula could pave the way for greater cooperation to stymie North Korean nuclear ambitions, writes CFR’s Scott Snyder.
Learn more about CFR’s mission and its work over the past year in the 2016 Annual Report. The Annual Report spotlights new initiatives, high-profile events, and authoritative scholarship from CFR experts, and includes a message from CFR President Richard N. Haass. Read and download »