CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "Inter-Korean Relations"

What Is North Korea’s Next Threat Likely to Be?

by Scott A. Snyder
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) presides over an urgent operation meeting on the Korean People's Army Strategic Rocket Force's performance of duty for firepower strike at the Supreme Command in Pyongyang, early March 29, 2013. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) presides over an urgent operation meeting on the Korean People's Army Strategic Rocket Force's performance of duty for firepower strike at the Supreme Command in Pyongyang, early March 29, 2013. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters)

Given the threat-a-day nature of North Korean actions in recent weeks, I have noticed that many of the media headlines on North Korea are including the word “again.”  I can almost imagine North Korea’s repetition of threats turning into a college drinking game. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 29, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presides over an urgent operation meeting on the Korean People's Army Strategic Rocket Force's performance of duty for firepower strike at the Supreme Command in Pyongyang on March 29, 2013. (Courtesy Reuters/KCNA) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presides over an urgent operation meeting on the Korean People's Army Strategic Rocket Force's performance of duty for firepower strike at the Supreme Command in Pyongyang on March 29, 2013. (Courtesy Reuters/KCNA)

Sharone Tobias and Will Piekos look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. North Korean belligerence: Kim Jong-un and his militaristic regime have ratcheted up tensions on the Korean peninsula (again), this time unilaterally severing the inter-Korean military hotline. The move comes along with increased rhetoric, as North Korea declared that its strategic rocket and long-range artillery units “are assigned to strike bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor troops in the U.S. mainland and on Hawaii and Guam and other operational zones in the Pacific as well as all the enemy targets in South Korea and its vicinity.” The United States responded by flying two nuclear-capable stealth bombers over the Korean peninsula. And so the tit-for-tat continues… Read more »

Countering North Korean Brinkmanship

by Scott A. Snyder
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) visits the Wolnae Islet Defence Detachment in the western sector of the front line, which is near Baengnyeong Island of South Korea March 11, 2013. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters) North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) visits the Wolnae Islet Defence Detachment in the western sector of the front line, which is near Baengnyeong Island of South Korea March 11, 2013. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters)

I have an op-ed on CNN.com that explains North Korea’s historic patterns of brinkmanship and analyzes whether the current, more extreme round of threats is par for the course or is something new.  My original title for the piece was “What is Behind North Korean Threats,” but CNN named it “Why the North Korea Regime is Scary?” Read more »

South Korea’s Nuclear Debate and the Credibility of U.S. Extended Deterrence

by Scott A. Snyder
The guided missile destroyers USS Lassen (DDG 82) and USS Fitzgerald (DDG62) are seen at a South Korean naval port in Donghae, about 190 km (118 miles) east of Seoul, March 9, 2013. (South Korean Navy/courtesy Reuters) The guided missile destroyers USS Lassen (DDG 82) and USS Fitzgerald (DDG62) are seen at a South Korean naval port in Donghae, about 190 km (118 miles) east of Seoul, March 9, 2013. (South Korean Navy/courtesy Reuters)

North Korea’s third nuclear test last month unleashed an active South Korean debate on nuclear weapons acquisition along with calls for the reintroduction of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to deter and strengthen the U.S. and ROK position in nuclear negotiations. (The debate was nicely summarized here by Toby Dalton and Yoon Ho-jin). South Korea has also displayed its determination to counter any perceived North Korean advantage that might allow it to use nuclear blackmail against South Korea.  As the decibel level of North Korea’s threats has reached unprecedented levels, South Korea has also shown a grim determination to match North Korea’s threats with its own clear and specific signals of resolve. Read more »

UN Sanctions and North Korea

by Scott A. Snyder
Members of the United Nations Security Council vote to tighten sanctions on North Korea at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, March 7, 2013. In response to North Korea's third nuclear test, the U.N. Security Council voted on Thursday to tighten financial restrictions on Pyongyang and crack down on its attempts to ship and receive banned cargo in breach of U.N. sanctions. (Brendan McDermid/courtesy Reuters) Members of the United Nations Security Council vote to tighten sanctions on North Korea at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, March 7, 2013. In response to North Korea's third nuclear test, the U.N. Security Council voted on Thursday to tighten financial restrictions on Pyongyang and crack down on its attempts to ship and receive banned cargo in breach of U.N. sanctions. (Brendan McDermid/courtesy Reuters)

The unanimous passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2094 builds on prior UN Security Council resolutions 1695, 1718, 1874, and 2087 in opposing North Korea’s drive to expand its nuclear and missile delivery capabilities.  Each of the UN Security Council resolutions were passed following North Korean long-range rocket launches or nuclear tests.  These resolutions were designed to cut off flows of nuclear and missile technologies between North Korea and the outside world and to signal international disapproval of North Korea’s nuclear-related activities. Read more »

Presidential Inbox: A Strategy to Counter North Korea’s Nuclear Defiance

by Scott A. Snyder
U.S. President Obama speaks during a joint news conference with South Korea's President Lee at the Blue House in Seoul. (Yuriko Nakao/courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Obama speaks during a joint news conference with South Korea's President Lee at the Blue House in Seoul. (Yuriko Nakao/courtesy Reuters)

Mr. President, your first administration played “small ball” with North Korea. The policy of “strategic patience” succeeded in weathering North Korean provocations and limited exposure to the political risks that would have accompanied a high profile effort to address North Korea’s nuclear development.  However, the crime and punishment approach to North Korea’s 2009 satellite launch and nuclear test through UN Security Council sanctions, statements, and resolutions has failed to stop North Korea’s growing nuclear and long-range delivery capabilities. Read more »

A New Opportunity for China-South Korea Relations Under Park Geun-hye and Xi Jinping?

by Scott A. Snyder
China's Vice Foreign Minister Zhang shakes hands with South Korea's conservative President-elect Park during their meeting at her office in Seoul. (Kim Hong-ji/courtesy Reuters) China's Vice Foreign Minister Zhang shakes hands with South Korea's conservative President-elect Park during their meeting at her office in Seoul. (Kim Hong-ji/courtesy Reuters)

Following an early ambassadorial visit and a courtesy call on President-elect Park Geun-hye from China’s special envoy Vice Minister Zhang Zhijun, Park has decided to reciprocate by sending her first special envoys to Beijing during the transition. The exchange illustrates a mutual recognition that Sino-South Korean relations had deteriorated under Lee Myung-Bak and Hu Jintao and that Park and Xi have a chance to start out on the right foot this time. (See-Won Byun and I review the respective South Korean and Chinese leadership transitions over the last four months in detail here alongside parallel assessments of inter-Korean relations and U.S.-ROK relations by Aidan Foster-Carter and Victor Cha and Ellen Kim.) Read more »

Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s Speech: Who Is the Audience?

by Scott A. Snyder
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un delivers a New Year address in Pyongyang. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un delivers a New Year address in Pyongyang. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters)

An annual ritual of North Korea is the release of a lengthy propaganda statement that serves as guidance and provides a sense of priorities for the coming year.  Under Kim Jong-il, the statement came in the form of a joint New Year’s Day editorial by three leading news organs, but Kim Il-sung gave the speech himself.  Kim Jong-un does not appear to have the same fear of public speaking that his father apparently had, so he gave the speech, which was broadcast on North Korean television, available through YouTube here.  Even though Kim is not afraid to read a speech in front of a camera, the echoing of the room, despite North Korean cutaways to a building accompanied by an applause track, suggests that Kim did not present the speech to a live audience.  Curious. Read more »

The End of Kim Jong-il: North Korea in Transition

by Scott A. Snyder
North Koreans visit the statues of the North's founder Kim Il-sung and his son and late leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters) North Koreans visit the statues of the North's founder Kim Il-sung and his son and late leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters)

Kim Jong-il died a year ago today, but the breathless rush of anticipated changes, instability, and chaos that many expected have not materialized. That the North Korean state has survived two decades of predictions that it would collapse illustrates just how poorly external observers understand what makes North Korea tick. There is a wide variation among the views of the most experienced of American North Korea specialists, from those who see the system as durable, even if embattled, to those who see the system as bankrupt and ripe for instability and collapse. The full range of views is represented in a new volume I edited with Park Kyung-Ae, entitled North Korea in Transition: Politics, Economy, and Society. These assessments were completed last spring as the transition to the rule of Kim Jong-un began to unfold along lines that had already been put into place by Kim Jong-il prior to his death. Read more »

North Korea’s Successful Satellite Launch: Assessing the Impact

by Scott A. Snyder
The Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket is pictured sitting on a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site. (Bobby Yip/courtesy Reuters) The Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket is pictured sitting on a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site. (Bobby Yip/courtesy Reuters)

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) or North Korea successfully launched a multi-stage Unha-3 rocket from its Tongchang-ri launch facility on December 12 at 9:51 a.m. KST. About ninety minutes after the launch, the Korean Central News Agency reported that “the launching of the satellite ‘Gwangmyongsong-3’ using the “Unha-3” rocket was a success and that the satellite has entered into its planned orbit.” North American Aerospace Defense Command reported that “initial indications are that the missile deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit.” Read more »