North Korea

  • Strengthen US Ballistic Missile Defense to Deter North Korea

    After a series of missile tests over the past couple of months, it is clear that, left to its own devices, North Korea will continue to test its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) over the same trajectory and at greater distances into the Pacific. Frequent tests have proven that Pyongyang, despite international condemnation and an enhanced sanctions regime, is not reluctant to produce more missiles.

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  • Manning in YaleGlobal: Game-Changer: North Korean Provocations Spark Policy Dilemmas

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  • A Strategy for Dealing with North Korea

    Former US undersecretary of state, R. Nicholas Burns, discusses US options, the importance of Chinese pressure, and lessons learned from the Iran nuclear crisis

    New sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council on September 11 in response to North Korea’s latest nuclear test are “not significant enough,” according to R. Nicholas Burns, an Atlantic Council board member who served as undersecretary of state for political affairs in the George W. Bush administration.

    Sanctions must be part of a “patient long-term strategy” that includes deterrence, working closely with allies, and negotiations, said Burns, laying out the United States’ options for dealing with the North Korean crisis. 

    Capping a summer marked by defiant intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un dramatically escalated the crisis on September 3 by successfully testing a miniaturized hydrogen bomb that is capable of being placed on an ICBM. On September 15, North Korea launched a missile over Japan—it's second such act in just over two weeks. The test was in defiance of a fresh round of sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council on North Korea earlier in September. 

    As the third-highest-ranking official at the State Department from 2005 to 2008, Burns was the lead US negotiator on Iran’s nuclear program. Drawing on that experience, he emphasized the need for a multilateral approach to defuse the North Korean crisis. China, he said, would be a critical player in such an approach.

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  • North Korean Missile Engines: Not from Ukraine

    A new report points to Ukraine as a possible source of liquid propellant engines (LPE) powering intercontinental-range missiles successfully ground-tested by North Korea last year and flight-tested this year. As the world grapples with the fait accompli of North Korean nuclear and missile capability, the path Pyongyang took to acquire it is of considerable interest, and allegations of aiding it are of serious consequence.

    The report, authored by Michael Elleman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, attributes the sudden success of North Korean missile tests to a recent illicit transfer of technology from Russia or Ukraine. Elleman uses visual analyses to identify North Korean missile LPEs as derived from RD-250 engines designed by the Russian Energomash and manufactured by Ukraine’s Yuzhmash enterprise. On the same day, The New York Times ran an article drawing on Elleman’s report but more explicitly singling out Ukraine’s Yuzhmash as the likely source of the technology transfer.

    The controversial part of the report is its hypothesis about the recent timing and the source of the transfer. Elleman concludes that North Korea has no ability to manufacture such engines and therefore must have imported them ready-made, most likely by rail, in the last couple of years from Russia or Ukraine. Although Elleman does not point directly to the Ukrainian government or Yuzhmash executives, he strongly suggests that Yuzhmash is the likely source of illegal transfers, since the enterprise had fallen on hard times following the termination of contracts from Russia in the wake of the Russian-Ukrainian war. We examine this hypothesis and find it implausible.

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  • Brummer Joins C-SPAN to Discuss North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela Sanctions

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  • Pyongyang’s Ambitions Have Nothing to Do with Kyiv and Everything to Do with Moscow

    The North Korean leadership, headed by 33-year-old Kim Jong-un, is openly threatening its neighbors, as well as the United States, with missile strikes. How has this little country, most of whose citizens live in poverty, managed to cause such a global security issue? A recent New York Times article accused Ukraine of illegally supplying rocket technology to the rogue state. Yet the answer to the question is more intricate. It calls for critical thinking and the recollection of assertions made by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 2007 Munich Security Conference.

    Frustrated with the power of the United States, and the Kremlin’s loss of control over the former Soviet Union, Putin postulated the need to destroy American-oriented unipolarity in Munich. Referring to the United States he said, “The force’s dominance inevitably encourages a number of countries to acquire weapons of mass destruction” and that the decisive moment to rethink the architecture of global security had arrived.

    It is within this context that North Korea, isolated and dependent on Chinese and Russian aid, re-joined a privileged group of Moscow’s “friends,” enjoying forms of political, economic, and military support. Military-technical cooperation between the Kremlin and Pyongyang flourished under the brutal Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Putin appears to be following in his footsteps.

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  • The United States’ ‘Horrible Options’ for Dealing with North Korea

    With Kim Jong-un ratcheting up tensions on the Korean Peninsula, US President Donald J. Trump is left with two “horrible” options to deal with the threat posed by the North Korean regime, according to Atlantic Council board member and a former acting and deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Michael Morell.

    Acknowledging that he has “serious doubts” about the effectiveness of diplomacy to defuse the crisis, Morell said that a non-diplomatic solution leaves the United States with less than palatable alternatives. Washington would have to weigh the options of conducting a pre-emptive strike on North Korea’s missiles and nuclear facilities, or accepting the fact that North Korea has these capabilities and using a strategy of containment and deterrence.

    Both options could leave thousands of people dead, Morell said. “Both options are horrible options. The problem is, it looks like the president of the United States is going to have to choose one of them,” he added.

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  • Metzl in CNN: Trump Has Made a Bad North Korea Situation Even Worse

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  • Kroenig Quoted in ABC News on the Threat Posed by North Korean Missiles

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  • Castello-Catchot Quoted in Clarin on Trump’s Policy Toward North Korea

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