Nuclear Issues

458 Items

North Korea launches a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile reported to be a Hwasong-17, its largest-known ICBM, on May 25, 2022.

Image via YTN & YTN plus

Analysis & Opinions - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Poll: Americans, Japanese, and South Koreans Don't Support Using Nuclear Weapons Against North Korea

| Oct. 25, 2022

For months, evidence has accumulated that North Korea may be preparing its seventh nuclear explosive test. Continuous warnings by analysts and the media about this possibility are a sobering reminder that Pyongyang's continued pursuit of a larger nuclear arsenal remains a challenge for the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the nonproliferation regime. This continues to be the case even as the public and leaders around the world have largely shifted their attention to the nuclear dimensions of the war in Ukraine.

The China Questions 2 book cover

Harvard University Press

Book Chapter - Harvard University Press

Where Do Divergent US and Chinese Approaches to Dealing with North Korea Lead?

| August 2022

For the United States, the dominant approach has been economic coercion. Despite applying stringent sanctions, the United States has been ineffective in convincing North Korea to give up its nuclear arsenal in return for a brighter economic and diplomatic future. The myriad U.S. sanctions have also failed to halt major progress in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. However, these setbacks have not caused the United States to change its strategy of economic coercion. On the contrary, the United States has considerably increased its use of this economic statecraft tool. In contrast, China has deepened its economic engagement with the North Korean regime since the late 2000s. Through the relationship between the Chinese Communist Party and its counterpart the Workers’ Party of Korea, China has cultivated and monetized political ties. Doing so has provided a powerful mechanism through which the Kim family regime—leaders of North Korea’s ruling and prosperous 1 percent—has shored up stability and thrived.

Mads Brügger Receives Lux Film Prize in 2019

Wikimedia Commons/ European Parliament

Journal Article - Nonproliferation Review

Of Moles and Missiles: Anatomy of a North Korean Arms Deal?

| Apr. 08, 2022

In October 2020, a parade celebrating the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Korean Workers Party showcased a range of new weapons systems, including a new large intercontinental ballistic missile. The same weekend saw the release of a fascinating documentary film directed by provocative Danish filmmaker Mads Brügger, entitled The Mole: Undercover in North Korea. The film consists of footage—much of it filmed undercover—that was shot over a period of 10 years. It tells the story of a retired Danish chef’s infiltration of the Korean Friendship Association (KFA), an international organization that seeks to promote the ideology, history, and culture of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and defend the country from its critics. The story culminates in the exploration of plans for a series of sanctions-busting deals: constructing an underground arms factory on a Ugandan island, shipping oil to North Korea, and supplying arms to unspecified customers of Pyongyang through a private arms dealer. This review essay seeks to contextualize the film’s contents, consider the insights it offers into North Korea’s arms dealing, and examine a number of questions that arise.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, second from right, inspects the preparation of the launch of a Hwasong-14 ICBM in North Korea on July 4, 2017.

AP Photo

Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

Defending the United States: Revisiting National Missile Defense against North Korea

| Winter 2021/22

The costly Ground-based Midcourse Defense system remains unproven and unreliable in deterring North Korea’s threat to use intercontinental ballistic missiles. An airborne boost-phase intercept system may offer an alternative defense against North Korea without threatening Russian or Chinese deterrents.

A satellite photo showing heavy snows along the Korean coast, mid-February 2011.

NASA images courtesy MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC

Report - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

A Policy of Public Diplomacy with North Korea

| August 2021

The Biden administration has emphasized the importance of alliances and core values of democracy in its foreign policy approach. Given this emphasis, public diplomacy—activities intended to understand, inform, and influence foreign audiences—should be considered an essential tool in achieving our long-term policy objectives in North Korea. Public diplomacy has the potential to spur domestic change in North Korea—change that could result in improved human rights conditions, leading to behavioral change in the Kim regime, and eventually denuclearization.

The embassy of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, in Moscow in 2008 (Denghu/Wikimedia Commons).

Denghu/Wikimedia Commons

Journal Article - Asian Security

Spies, Diplomats and Deceit: Exploring the Persistent Role of Diplomatic Missions in North Korea’s WMD Proliferation and Arms Trafficking Networks

| July 05, 2021

North Korea frequently uses diplomatic missions, diplomats and intelligence officers in its Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) proliferation and arms trafficking networks. The paper places the use of these assets in historical context, provides a basic typology of their role, and considers why they have featured in North Korea’s networks. The paper identifies a number of trends surrounding the use of North Korean missions – including the types and locations of missions featuring in specific types of proliferation and arms dealing activities, the prominence of larger missions and use of third country and regional hubs. It argues that the persistence of these assets in the DPRK’s networks is largely a result of convenience and diplomatic immunity. The paper concludes by recommending further action to counter these assets while arguing that the phenomenon will continue to be a challenging feature of North Korea’s proliferation and arms trading activities.

Photo of U.S. Gen. Vincent Brooks commander of the United Nations Command, U.S. Forces Korea and Combined Forces Command, speaks during an opening ceremony for the new headquarters of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. Friday, June 29, 2018.

(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, Pool)

Magazine Article

'This Is a Window of Opportunity.' Ret. General Vincent K. Brooks on Why Things Might Be Moving Again With North Korea

| June 24, 2021

Few know the intricacies of the North Korean problem better than General Vincent K. Brooks, who retired from active duty in January 2019 as a four-star general in command of over 600,000 Koreans and Americans comprising the U.S. Forces Korea, U.N. Command and ROK-U.S. Combined Forces. He also previously served as commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific.

Now a Senior Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, General Brooks spoke to TIME about opportunities for a breakthrough with North Korea during the Biden Administration.

Mohammad Javad Zarif during the Munich Security Conference 2019

Balk /MSC

Analysis & Opinions - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

“Transactional” Nuclear Diplomacy May Provide a Path toward “Grand Bargains” with Iran and North Korea

| Apr. 29, 2021

Proponents of “transactional” diplomacy argue that comprehensive deals to transform political relationships are unrealistic, and that zeroing in on the most pressing issue is the only way to make any tangible progress. The “grand bargainers” retort that any deal that isn’t comprehensive will face fatal opposition from important stakeholders.

Both arguments have some merit, but the perceived distinction between them is a false one: Past engagements with Iran and North Korea were premised on the hope that piecemeal transactions could provide a platform for more sweeping diplomacy. And the best nonproliferation progress has been achieved when all sides perceived diplomatic transactions as incremental steps toward broader reconciliation.