North Korea

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North Korea, formerly designated a state sponsor of terrorism by the United States, emerged as a nuclear-armed enigma under the dictatorship of Kim-Jong Il. RAND’s research on both deterrence and failed states includes expert analysis of the North Korean regime, opportunities for its modernization and democratization, and implications for post–Cold War geopolitics.

  • Hands with South Korean and North Korean flags clasp one another, design by RAND Corporation, images from iStock and Getty Images

    Report

    How to Prepare North Korean Elites for Unification

    Apr 27, 2017

    North Korean propaganda suggests that unification led by the South would be a disaster for Northern elites. Unless the elites are convinced otherwise, peaceful unification may be impossible. What could South Korea do to help them feel better about, or at least less resistant to, unification?

  • USA-CHINA/

    Multimedia

    China and North Korea

    Jun 8, 2017

    Overview of testimony presented by Andrew Scobell before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission on June 8, 2017.

Explore North Korea

  • People watch a huge screen showing the test launch of intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 in this undated photo released by KCNA, July 5, 2017.

    Commentary

    A Surgical Strike Against North Korea? Not a Viable Option

    North Korea's July 4 launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit American soil has renewed talk of military intervention. But an effective limited military strike with minimal collateral damage and no escalation simply won't work.

    Jul 14, 2017

  • China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks at a Security Council meeting on the situation in North Korea at the United Nations, New York City, April 28, 2017

    Commentary

    How China Could Truly Rein in North Korea

    China has key pressure points at its disposal to help deter North Korea from nuclear activities. It could cut off oil supplies or limit other trade, or crack down on illicit finance networks as many of the banks laundering money for the regime are in China. It could also stop shielding Pyongyang at the UN.

    Jun 20, 2017

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un looks at a rocket warhead tip after a simulated test of atmospheric re-entry of a ballistic missile in this undated photo released by the Korean Central News Agency on March 15, 2016

    Blog

    Conversations at RAND: Security Tensions in Northeast Asia

    The increasing tempo of developments in North Korea is of growing concern not only to South Korea but also to the U.S., Japan, and even China. At a RAND event, senior researcher Bruce Bennett discussed how complex the situation is and what options the U.S. has going forward.

    Jun 8, 2017

  • War veterans and commanding officers in a military parade celebrate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the truce of the Korean War, in Pyongyang, August 3, 2013

    Commentary

    End the Korean War, Finally

    Sixty-four years ago, the Korean War was suspended by a cease-fire. A peace treaty was never signed. Standing ready to formally end this old war may be the key to dismantling North Korea's nuclear program without starting a new one.

    Jun 8, 2017

  • A man sits between binoculars that he offers to tourists to watch the North Korean side of the Yalu River in Dandong, China, April 1, 2017

    Testimony

    A Close Look at China's Relationship with North Korea

    North Korea has been a near-constant headache for China since the early 1990s. In light of Pyongyang's recent provocations, what are Beijing's interests on the Korean Peninsula? And what is the potential for U.S.-China cooperation on the issue?

    Jun 8, 2017

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches the test of a new-type anti-aircraft guided weapon system organized by the Academy of National Defence Science, May 2017

    Commentary

    Is Moon Ready to Reunite Korea? Is Kim Jong Un?

    President Moon Jae-in is focused on South Korean domestic issues and internal unification. But he needs to prepare for unification with North Korea. He will face challenges whether unification is brought on by peaceful coexistence or as the result of sudden change.

    Jun 2, 2017

  • Events @ RAND Audio Podcast

    Multimedia

    Security Tensions in Northeast Asia

    In this Events @ RAND podcast, RAND's Bruce Bennett, an expert in Northeast Asian military issues, discusses efforts by the U.S., its allies, and China to defuse the current situation and halt North Korea's development of nuclear weapons.

    Jun 1, 2017

  • News Release

    Unification Could Be Good for North Korea

    While Korean unification is a major issue in South Korea, North Korean propaganda suggests that an ROK-led unification would be a disaster for North Korean elites, using this fear to bind elites closer to the regime and make them more hostile and resistant to ideas of unification. Without changing those views of North Korean elites it is difficult to imagine how peaceful unification could be achieved.

    Apr 27, 2017

  • Multimedia

    Direction of Foreign Policy in Trump Administration's First 100 Days

    In this Call with the Experts, RAND senior fellow, James Dobbins, as well as RAND senior international policy analyst, Linda Robinson, discuss the Trump administration's emerging foreign policy strategy as it approaches the symbolic 100-day milestone.

    Apr 26, 2017

  • Estonian and U.S. soldiers conduct live-fire training during a combat exercise near Tapa, Estonia, April 6, 2017

    Commentary

    How Trump Can Deter Russia and All of America's Other Enemies

    There is no such thing as blanket deterrence. Rather, one must deter a specific adversary from taking a specific action. A holistic approach should include ramping up U.S. capabilities to anticipate emerging threats, including events that are unlikely to happen.

    Apr 26, 2017

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves to people attending a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary of country's founding father Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang April 15, 2017.

    Commentary

    China's Role in Dissuading North Korea from a Chemical Weapons Attack

    North Korea's brash pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and disregard for chemical weapons norms are enormously troubling. China's engagement will be essential in convincing Kim Jong Un that the use of chemical weapons is a red line that cannot be crossed.

    Apr 24, 2017

  • Locals read promotional boards about planned economic zones along the China-North Korea border in Nanping, China, March 27, 2017

    Commentary

    Despite Promising Signs, China's North Korea Policy Unchanged

    Official statements and public discussions on China's willingness to punish or otherwise influence North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in a direction favorable to U.S. interests have been optimistic lately. But China's continued support of the North should temper expectations.

    Apr 24, 2017

  • Multimedia

    Media Conference Call on the North Korea Crisis

    RAND experts Bruce Bennett, Mike Mazarr, and Andrew Scobell host a conference call with news media discussing the latest developments between North Korea, the United States, and China. Senior Media Relations Officer Khorshied Samad moderates the call.

    Apr 20, 2017

  • U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping at the Mar-a-Lago estate after a bilateral meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, April 7, 2017

    Commentary

    Rocky Road Ahead Likely for U.S.-China Relations

    The first summit with President Trump and China's President Xi Jinping downplayed contentious issues like Taiwan and the South China Sea. But the differences run deep, and frustration is palpable on both sides. Moreover, the competition for international leadership continues.

    Apr 11, 2017

  • U.S. President Donald Trump holds a bilateral meeting with China's President Xi Jinping at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., April 7, 2017

    Commentary

    Five Dead-Ends — and One Risky Opportunity — When Trump and Xi Talk North Korea

    Among President Trump's options, proposing a deal that gives the North Korean elite an alternative to its murderous and unstable leader could be the safest and most realistic way to sheath North Korean nuclear weapons and safeguard the American people.

    Apr 10, 2017

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised a ballistic rocket launching drill of Hwasong artillery units of the Strategic Force of the KPA

    Commentary

    Murder, Missiles, and Messages from North Korea

    Pyongyang launched a ballistic missile on February 12 — one day before Kim Jong Nam, half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was murdered in Malaysia — and four more on March 6. What would lead North Korea to carry out these provocations?

    Mar 24, 2017

  • North Korean ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol speaks during a news conference regarding the apparent assassination of Kim Jong Nam at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, February 20, 2017

    Commentary

    Death by Nerve Gas: Two Arrests, Many Questions in Attack in Malaysia

    Details about the murder of Kim Jong-Un's half-brother are still being uncovered. If a firm connection to North Korea can be made, others in the region should react strongly. Otherwise, Kim may conclude that further provocations are worth it.

    Mar 7, 2017

  • Two U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 35th Fighter Squadron land in sync after a training sortie Feb. 13, 2014, at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea.

    Commentary

    A Political Earthquake in Seoul and Its Repercussions for U.S. Policy

    With new administrations in the U.S. and South Korea, it's time to find a middle ground and set up a new common policy toward North Korea. The pressures felt by both countries make the relationship all the more vital to the historical allies.

    Jan 25, 2017