As the latest and worst North Korea crisis in six decades continues to rage, the need to think outside the box grows more urgent. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the global community appear trapped in a vicious circle, like a malign chicken and egg. After 11 years and eight major UN resolutions, this cycle is wearily familiar. North Korea tests a ballistic missile (BM) or a nuclear device.
China’s relations with North Korea are complex with a variety of bad choices and suboptimal solutions. It could be argued that the actor that has lost most in the recent tensions is China. It has often been argued that China should do more, above all by U.S. President Trump. However, what are the options and restraints China faces in its relations with North Korea? This short article does not mean to engage in the debate on whether China or the U.S.
Understanding the current iteration of the two-decade long North Korean crisis is not easy. It is, for what of a better word, complicated. Furthermore, the fact is that it has finally imploded while Donald Trump is President. “Of all the presidents in all the world, why did you have to start a North Korean crisis with him...?” This is not an administration that lends itself to level analysis. And nor is the topic, for that matter.
Japan under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe does not have what a country geographically so close to and easily within range of North Korean short and medium-range missiles should have: a plan, let alone a North Korea strategy, that goes beyond announcing that Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear tests are an “unacceptable provocation”.
Among all those who try to evaluate South Korea’s position in the midst of the latest sharp rise in tensions on the Korean peninsula, the best, yet striking, definition has so far been provided by someone very close to the administration, in the person of Moon Chung-in, special advisor for unification, diplomacy and national security to President Moon Jae-in.
The presentation analysed the current state of North Korea’s nuclear programme assessing whether and to what extent it poses a credible and immediate threat to security on the Korean Peninsula and beyond. Under the current circumstances, is a peaceful re–unification of the Korean Peninsula still an option and possibility in years ahead?
The discussion was held in English.
The event was organised in partnership with the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Milan.
Get ready folks for a new premiere of slapstick comedy between Korea and China featuring a new actor, Moon Jae-in, elected South Korea’s president on May 9. A Korean president’s slapstick comedy show is a never-ending story. We already watched a couple of episodes featuring former president Park Geun-hye. One was her attendance at China’s military parade in 2015, triggering questions about her diplomatic stance between Washington and Beijing.
On March 6, Pyongyang fired four missiles into the Sea of Japan and three of them landed in Japan’s ‘exclusive economic zone’ in Japanese territorial waters. The missiles travelled roughly 1.000 kilometres and landed as close as 300 kilometres from Japan’s northwest coast. For now, business as usual – at least more or less – for Japan’s defence planners and defence hawks. In 2016 alone North Korea conducted 20 missile and 2 nuclear tests and Tokyo has been within range of Pyongyang’s short and medium-range missiles for years.
After a 36-year hiatus, North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party has opened its 7th Congress in Pyongyang. It follows a “70-day campaign of loyalty” in which everyone was called to work overtime to boost production levels ahead of the Congress. This major political gathering comes as North Korea is facing international condemnations over the last months of military muscle-flexing that have led many outside experts to believe Pyongyang is much closer to having a viable nuclear deterrent than previously thought. Although Beijing is growing frustrated with Pyongyang’s behavior, North Korea won’t be abandoned given its importance as buffer state, shielding China from the U.S. presence in the area. Domestically, the years since Kim took power have moved the country towards increased internal stability and a return to a more “formal” way of running the country, rehabilitating central party institutions and weakening the military’s influence over politics and the economy. The political, economic and personnel changes announced will therefore be closely watched in order to determine how Kim Jong-un’s rule will differ from that of past generations.
The already troubled relations between Seoul and Pyongyang further deteriorated in the first half of 2016, due to a series of dramatic events. The year 2016 began with North Korea’s fourth nuclear test on January 6, which was internationally condemned and led to the adoption of new sanctions against Pyongyang. However, luckily it was not – as Pyongyang claimed - a hydrogen bomb test. One month later, on February 7, Pyongyang launched a long-range missile, claiming that it was putting a satellite into orbit.