North Korea

  • New Missile Tests Cast Doubt on North Korea’s Commitment to Nuclear Talks

    New missile launches from North Korea could derail US President Donald J. Trump’s attempts to restart talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear program. The tests are “another sign that [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-un believes he has the upper hand over Trump and that the administration’s ‘maximum pressure’ strategy isn’t working,” according to Alexander Vershbow, an Atlantic Council distinguished fellow and former US ambassador to South Korea.

    According to South Korean officials, two short-range missiles were fired from the east coast of North Korea on July 25, landing harmlessly in the sea. Seoul has suggested that these missiles could be a “new type of missile,” design but likely are in violation of UN Security Council resolutions barring North Korea from testing ballistic missiles.  In addition to the tests, North Korea released images on July 23 of a new submarine, which could be large enough to carry nuclear-armed missiles. The July 25 missile tests are the first reported since several other short-range missiles were fired on May 4.


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  • With One Small Step, Trump Makes History in North Korea

    Trump, Kim agree to restart nuclear negotiations

    On June 30, Donald J. Trump became the first US president to set foot in North Korea. Trump made history when stepped across a low concrete marker accompanied by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and walked a few steps into the North. The two leaders agreed to have their negotiators resume an effort to reach what has so far been an elusive nuclear deal.

    “The United States, under the Trump administration, has disrupted the longstanding, but failing, US policies of past administrations by seeking to build trust from the top down,” said Barry Pavel, senior vice president, Arnold Kanter chair, and director of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security.

    “This was helpful for reducing the near-term threat, but so far it is unclear whether it will help to achieve the denuclearization that we seek,” said Pavel. “How much trust building will be required before North Korea begins the process of denuclearization? Certainly, today’s ceremony and symbolism is not unhelpful, but it is unclear how and when this path will lead to a nuclear-free North Korea.”


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  • North Korea Must Regain Washington’s Trust, South Korean Official Says

    Special adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in argues that diplomatic and security assurances—not sanctions relief—are the key to achieving North Korean denuclearization

    Following the failure of the February summit in Vietnam between US President Donald J. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, “there is a huge trust gap between Washington and Pyongyang,” Chung-in Moon, special adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in for unification, foreign, and national security affairs, said at the Atlantic Council in Washington on June 19. “In order to break that trust gap,” Moon added, “North Korea should take some proactive actions.”


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  • ‘Door is Wide Open’ for Negotiations with North Korea, US Envoy Says

    With US-North Korean diplomacy stuck in a ‘holding pattern,’ Stephen Biegun says North Korean negotiators must be empowered to discuss denuclearization

    US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun said at the Atlantic Council in Washington on June 19 that “the door is wide open” for negotiations with North Korea, while admitting that US-North Korean diplomacy has been in a “holding pattern” since the summit between US President Donald J. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi in February.

    “For both countries, denuclearization sits at the center of this discussion,” Biegun said, adding: “Our expectations have been made quite clear to the North Koreans, but Chairman Kim has also signaled to us during the course of [the Hanoi summit] how important this issue is to him.”


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  • Can Xi’s Visit to North Korea Facilitate US-China Trade Talks?

    Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first state visit to North Korea this week will underscore Beijing’s clout in Pyongyang and, by doing so, Xi may be looking to re-energize a US effort to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and gain leverage in stalled US-China trade negotiations.

    “President Xi recognizes that closer relations with North Korea’s leader will give China additional leverage in its ongoing [trade] dispute with the United States,” said Jamie Metzl, a nonresident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security.


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  • Coherent US Strategy Seen Key to Effective Sanctions

    As Washington looks to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, support for Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and interference in the 2016 US elections, economic sanctions can be a useful tool, but they must fit into a coherent US strategy in order to be effective, Atlantic Council experts told US lawmakers on May 15.

    “Sanctions can be a useful, precise, and effective tool of US foreign policy, so long as they are treated as a tool to implement a clear policy and a thought-out strategy,” David Mortlock, a nonresident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center explained.


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  • Policing Terror Finance in an Era of Great Competition

    The United States' sanctions strategy is increasingly burdened by the involvement of systemically important financial institutions and sovereign investors in global financial statecraft. In the post-9/11 world, Washington’s strategy was highly effective in pursuing non-state actors like al-Qaeda or ISIS, as well as small, rogue nations like Iran. Yet in addressing larger sovereigns like the Kremlin, US strategy has struggled to maintain the same effectiveness given the cross-border financial connections linking these entities to Western markets. As an era of great power competition among Washington, Moscow, and Beijing sets in, these foes will crowd out smaller, non-state actors, thus demanding an adequate response from the Treasury.


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  • Iran-North Korea Relationship Reflects Failed US Policies

    Before he was Iran’s Supreme Leader, then-President Ayatollah Ali Khamenei visited North Korea in 1989—a trip that included a ride on the Pyongyang subway and a motorcade ride past throngs of cheering North Koreans. It was intended to send a strong message: North Korea and Iran, driven by mutual enmity toward the United States, were becoming close friends.

    “Among the reasons why Iran is close to Korea is the USA’s enmity toward both our countries,” Khamenei said. “If big countries threaten progressive countries, then progressive countries should threaten them in turn... You have proved in Korea that you have the power to confront America.”

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  • Trump's Reversal of North Korea Sanctions Sends a Dangerous Signal

    US President Donald J. Trump’s stunning decision to reverse Treasury sanctions on North Korea because he “likes” Kim Jong-un sends a troubling message to the United States’ friends and foes.

    “Hard to believe, but the president is undercutting his own policy of maximum pressure/maximum diplomacy, which was arguable sound, in favor, it seems, of an obsequious gesture,” said Daniel Fried, a distinguished senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative and Eurasia Center who as the State Department’s coordinator for sanctions policy crafted US sanctions against Russia, the largest US sanctions program to date, and negotiated the imposition of similar sanctions by Europe, Canada, Japan, and Australia. 


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  • COhen in Forbes: North Korea Illegally Trades Oil, Coal, With China's Help


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