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.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is famously ill-named. All four words are false. It is no democracy; the people decide nothing. More hereditary monarchy than republic, its culture and institutions owe more to Stalin (who created it) and Mao than to anything Korean.
The prospects for the North Korean economy meeting Kim’s New Year’s demand that “…we should bring about an upturn in improving the people’s living standards”1 looked dim at the start of 2015. The self-imposed Ebola tourism ban lasted until April, cutting off a major foreign exchange earner.2 In
It has been a couple of very busy months for North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs. One nuclear test in January and a series of missile tests in February, March and April this year have made it impressively clear that Pyongyang was in the business of seeking to become as threatening as possible in the run-up to the Workers’ Party Convention on May 6.
Since the partition of the Korean peninsula, the crises between Seoul and Pyongyang have ranked high in the US political agenda. Nonetheless, the profile that the Obama administration has chosen to keep is relatively low. This choice has triggered criticisms, however the posture has brought its own benefits. Moreover, in a difficult economic situation, and in the face of increasing pressures for the curtailing of government expenditure, the ‘low profile’ approach meets the demands of a Congress whose support the White House increasingly needs. The main uncertainty is in the attitude of the PRC. However Beijing, more than any other nation, has a keen interest in keeping East Asia stable. This does not mean that China will become a sort of ‘US cop’ in East Asia. However, some forms of localized cooperation can be envisaged; a cooperation that could strengthen, as China will progress in occupying the international position that its leadership believes the country deserves.
This analysis evaluates the key factors involved in Japan's three territorial disputes with Russia, China and South Korea. First, the analysis provides a brief background for each dispute, examining their origins in Japan's pre-World War II Imperial expansion and the post-war settlement.
It is very difficult to draw any strategic consideration from the recent escalations in the Korean peninsula. No significant conclusion can be reached through merely analytical means.
North Korea is flexing its muscles, again. The UN imposing further sanctions onto North Korea in a (late) response to its December 2012 missile and February 2013 nuclear tests had the regime in Pyongyang go ballistic leading to angry rhetoric and threats to attack the US and its allies with ballistic and nuclear weapons.
The transition of power in North Korea after the death of Kim Jong-il portends both change and continuity. The heir to power, Kim Jong-un, no doubt relies on advice if not pressure from an inner circle of generals and other senior leaders. So far North Korean policy appears extremely tough, but perhaps that's an attempt to buttress his image amid concerns about his youth and inexperience.