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North Korea: Background on the Issues

June 2018

NBR regularly partners with leading American and Korean scholars to conduct research on key areas affecting U.S. policy toward the Korean Peninsula. The recent podcast and publications below highlight the security, geopolitical, economic, and human rights issues at play between the United States and the two Koreas.


Nicholas Eberstadt (American Enterprise Institute) discusses his key takeaways from the Trump-Kim summit, analyzes what the summit means for U.S. allies and other stakeholders in the region, and explains what he’d like to see from the Trump administration moving forward.


Daniel C. Sneider (Stanford University) writes that the spectacle of the first-ever meeting between a North Korean leader and a sitting U.S. president should not obscure essential realities within the region and argues that the United States should follow up with careful attention to managing our alliances with South Korea and Japan.

NBR President Richard Ellings considers "The Unthinkable with North Korea." In this commentary, Ellings argues that China is North Korea’s main strategic challenge, and thus North Korean denuclearization is not in the long-term strategic interests of the United States.

U.S. policy toward the Korean Peninsula extends beyond security concerns. In ”Strengthening U.S. Trade Strategy in the Asia-Pacific: The Role for the Korea-U.S. FTA,” former congressman Charles Boustany details how and why Washington should commit to a reformed trade agreement with Seoul.

To explore alternative methods to overcome Pyongyang’s information blockade, NBR conducted a Q&A with Jieun Baek on ”Unlocking the Black Box: Keys to Information Dissemination into North Korea.”

In NBR’s 2017–18 Strategic Asia volume, Chung Min Lee assesses the evolution of South Korea’s military strategy in the chapter ”South Korea’s Grand Strategy in Transition: Coping with Existential Threats and New Political Forces.”

The Korean Peninsula poses a security challenge to powers beyond the United States. In “North Korea and Asia's Evolving Nuclear Landscape: Challenges to Regional Stability,” eight scholars from the United States, South Korea, and Japan assess how a nuclear-capable North Korea alters the security calculations for the United States.

”The Future of the U.S.-ROK Alliance: Change and Continuity in North Korea Policy” is an NBR Special Report offering U.S. and South Korean perspectives on how the U.S.-ROK alliance, human rights, sanctions, and scenarios for reunification of the Korean Peninsula influence Washington’s and Seoul’s policies toward North Korea.

In the Asia Policy roundtable ”The North Korean Nuclear Threat: Regional Perspectives on a Nuclear-Free Peninsula,” experts examine the relationships that China, Japan, South Korea, and the United States each have with North Korea and assess the prospects for denuclearization.

With Asia developing into a multipolar region with several nuclear powers, Matthew Kroenig looks at the implications for U.S. security and foreign policy in ”Approaching Critical Mass: Asia's Multipolar Nuclear Future.”

Photo credit: Gilad Rom CC BY-NC