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

North Korea: Expert Analysis on Nuclear Tests and Threats

Matthew Bunn  Professor of Practice

“While the war of words between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un has heightened tensions, both sides remain deterred from launching a large-scale conflict. But tensions are so high that small sparks, inadvertently lit, could escalate.  The time has come to tamp down tensions and explore means to reduce the risk of blundering into war, from hotlines to arrangements to prevent and manage incidents at sea, in the air, or along the demilitarized zone.”

Nicholas Burns  Director, Future of Diplomacy Project

“As the United States goes forward, we have to have a comprehensive strategy ourselves that includes deterrence, United Nations’ sanctions, and financial sanctions by the United States. We also have to find a way to negotiate. If you practice strategic deterrence and make it clear that we are stronger militarily, you have to combine that with a willingness to talk directly to the North Koreans to get a sense of what their ultimate goals are and if any kind of compromise is possible.”

Ash Carter  Director, Belfer Center

“First, I would continue to recognize that deterrence and defense are essential. That means constant strengthening of our forces there. Second, there is a lot of talk about using diplomacy or military. The right approach mixes the two. Say to the North Koreans, ‘if you launch another long-range missile, here is what will happen. If you don’t, here is what the Chinese might do for you.’”

John Park  Director, Korea Working Group

“In the early years of Xi Jinping’s tenure as General-Secretary of the Communist Party of China, his signature anti-corruption campaign swept up “tigers and flies.” Some of these corrupt party officials were, directly or indirectly, involved in business deals with North Korean procurement agents embedded in the Chinese marketplace. With the codification of Xi’s anti-corruption apparatus following the19th Party Congress, there is a real opportunity to significantly curb North Korea’s specialized procurement for building a nuclear inventory for credible minimum deterrence.”        (Also see Park’s testimony to the Senate Banking Committee, 9/7/17.) 

Gary Samore  Executive Director for Research, Belfer Center

“Kim Jong Un is in the final stages of demonstrating that he can attack the U.S. with nuclear-armed missiles. At some point, he is likely to declare victory and dangle an offer to reduce tensions and limit nuclear and missile testing in exchange for sanctions relief and economic rewards. The Trump administration has done a good job of working with China to build economic pressure in response to North Korea’s testing campaign, but Washington has not yet prepared a diplomatic game plan to counter North Korea’s ‘peace offensive’.”

Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall  Senior Fellow

“President Trump’s loose talk about using nuclear weapons undermines America’s global moral authority and could inadvertently escalate into a catastrophic war.  To successfully address the North Korean challenge, we must fully align our diplomatic, economic and military efforts with our South Korean and Japanese allies and build broad international support for credible actions in response to Pyonyang’s accelerating nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities."

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:

North Korea: Expert Analysis on Nuclear Tests and Threats.” Belfer Center Newsletter, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School (Fall/Winter 2017-2018).


Nicholas Burns

Ash Carter

Gary Samore

Dr. Elizabeth D. Sherwood-Randall