Posts Tagged

North Korea

Three years ago, US-Iranian relations could not have been better. Once declared part of the ‘Axis of Evil’ by then-president George W. Bush, the Iran Nuclear Deal signed by his successor Barack Obama heralded a new age of more constructive ties with Tehran and the promise of greater nuclear security. While critics raised concerns that Iran would renege on the deal, these fears had proven unfounded so far – the IAEA confirmed that Iran has complied with its obligations under the agreement. Nonetheless, the Trump administration withdrew the US from the nuclear deal. Additionally, Trump has re-imposed all sanctions removed in 2015. With trust between Washington and Tehran in tatters and US carrier groups deployed to the Persian Gulf, the …

Donald Trump surprised the world by accepting an invitation to meet with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un. The announcement came unexpectedly, after more than a year of rising tensions between the United States and North Korea over the latter’s nuclear programme. What are the reasons for this diplomatic about-face? We can identify three reasons that have led to this development. The first is North Korea’s long-standing desire of building bilateral negotiations with the United States. The second reason is President Trump’s preference for personal and unconventional diplomacy. Finally, South Korea’s mediating role under the Moon administration has created the conditions to reopen diplomatic contacts between the two opponents. North Korea’s Quest for US Recognition Although North Korea has repeatedly threatened …

Over the last months, the escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea over the latter’s nuclear programme have dominated news headlines. US President Donald Trump has called North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un “rocket man” in front of the United Nations, labelled him crazy and insane, and stated he was willing to halt Kim’s pursuit of nuclear weapons by all means, while North Korea labelled Trump a “dotard.” Not everyone might like Trump’s colourful rhetoric, but his remarks strike a chord with many. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), or North Korea, threatens to turn Seoul into “a sea of fire” and to destroy the United States. Repeated rockets launched towards Japan seem like a preamble to a …

North Korean Studies: the focus on the hermit kingdom, its politics, economics, and society; the kingdom that poses a real-life threat to South Korea, and the world order as we know it today; a unique Marxist-Leninist state in the twenty-first century. Why focus on this particular area? More broadly, why devote time, funding, and research to the study of specific “areas” of the world? Surely an increasingly interconnected globe has rendered redundant the concept of a fixed “area”? The field of political geography—including geopolitics—has witnessed lengthy definitional and procedural debates around the field of area studies. North Korean studies—an area study in itself—offers a plethora of avenues for insight into area studies more widely in debates on how “best” to …

Yesterday, at around 3:00 GMT, North Korea conducted a third nuclear test. According to the official KCNA news agency, “the test was conducted safely and perfectly at a high level…with a higher-yield, smaller, lighter atomic device” (the full televised report [in Korean] is available here). The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), located in Vienna, soon confirmed that something was amiss on the seismic front, with the detection of ‘an explosion-like event’ on the Korean Peninsula, near to the site of North Korea’s nuclear weapons tests in 2006 and 2009. The timing of the 2013 test is not unexpected and the US and China were notified in advance. Some will read into the fact that the timing clashes with Obama’s State of the Union address. Others will point to the anniversary of former leader Kim Jong IL’s birthday on 16 February,. The timing of such things is not a precise science, however, and a number of factors, political and non-political (such as the weather), need to be considered. In any event, for us nuclear wonks, timing is less important. What matters more is reflected in the current scramble among experts to verify and identify the technical details: the exact yield and type of device, as well as the political and security implications of the test, regionally and globally.

The recently concluded two day Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul (March 26-27) ended with a promise to meet again. It was a follow-up to the first summit in Washington and participants will gather in the Netherlands in 2014 for what will be the third (and final) global summit of its kind. As the name suggests, the focus of the 2012 summit was ‘nuclear security’, a term not to be confused with nuclear plant safety or nuclear safeguard rules set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  In simple terms, ‘nuclear security’ is an effort to prevent the use of an atomic bomb by terrorists or illicit actors and provide security against nuclear terrorism. To this end the key participating countries pledged …

In the wake of the rather premature death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il at the age of 69, North Korea is expected to enter a period of violent turmoil and power struggle. Kim’s heir apparent is his youngest son Kim Jung-un, who is perhaps too young in his twenties and too inexperienced in political and military affairs to receive natural respect from his fellow Koreans, particularly in the context of a socialist Confucian culture. In the expected battle royal, he will face a strong rival in his uncle Jang Seong-taek, whose wife is Kim Jong-il’s only sister and who has a strong link to the military leadership through his elder brothers (one of them, Jang Seong-U, was the commander …