North Korea


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.

  • U.S. soldiers during an exercise on chemical, biological, and radiological warfare near the DMZ


    The Challenge of North Korean Biological Weapons

    Oct 11, 2013

    While there is evidence of North Korean biological weapons, little is known with certainty about them and how North Korea would use them. Bruce Bennett addresses the nature of the potential North Korean biological weapon threat and how the ROK and United States should prepare to counter potential attacks.

Explore North Korea

  • U.S. Army Rangers prepare for extraction during Task Force Training on Camp Roberts, California


    U.S. Needs Larger Army, Not a Smaller One

    To meet potential challenges in the Baltics and Korea while at the same time countering the existing terror threat posed by the Islamic State group and dealing with other problems that will doubtless emerge, the United States would need more troops, not less.

    Sep 9, 2015

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a meeting of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) Central Military Commission


    Why Kim Jong Un Fears South Korean Propaganda

    While the latest confrontation between North and South Korea appears to be ending peacefully, it provides insight into future North Korean provocations. Words as weapons can work when they are aimed at North Korea's internal politics and backed up by a strong South Korean response supported by the U.S.

    Aug 28, 2015

  • Senior couple on a park bench looking at a tablet


    Aging in Asia: Can the 'Tigers' Continue to Roar?

    Changing demographics will force Japan and the “Asian Tigers”—Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan—to find ways to remain economically dynamic while increasingly looking after their elderly. How might public policy help accomplish this?

    Jun 16, 2015

  • Two Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptors are launched during a successful intercept test in September 2013


    South Korea's Missile-Defense System Decision: Q&A with Bruce Bennett

    What might it mean if the U.S. deploys the terminal high-altitude air defense missile system known as THAAD in South Korea? Chinese pressure on South Korea to not allow THAAD deployment has become a major regional security issue.

    Apr 3, 2015

  • China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi (L) with North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong (R) in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, August 10, 2014


    China's North Korean Challenge

    China's North Korea policy seems to suffer from inertia and fear of upsetting the fragile status quo. The enduring goal is to defend Beijing's vital interests by all necessary means. These include preventing domestic insecurity and maintaining a stable buffer state at the gateway to China's political and economic heartland.

    Apr 3, 2015

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    Cyberattacks Are a Nuisance, Not Terrorism

    The United States needs to consider both the risk of further attacks like the Sony breach and also further ill-considered reactions that may arise if the problem of insecurity in cyberspace is shoved into the counterterrorism paradigm.

    Feb 9, 2015

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong-un claps during a photo session at a meeting of military and political cadres in this undated photo released by the KCNA, February 2, 2015


    North Korean Charm Offensive: Peace for Our Time?

    Is North Korea really sincere about wanting to negotiate improved relations with South Korea and the United States? Or is it seeking to undermine the strength and sovereignty of its neighbor, just as Germany did before World War II?

    Feb 3, 2015

  • President Barack Obama, left, and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, during their bilateral meeting at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sept. 5, 2013


    U.S.–Japan Alliance Conference Series Proceedings

    In a series of conferences, U.S. and Japanese experts explored the challenges for the U.S.-Japan alliance associated with China's military modernization drive and increasing foreign policy assertiveness.

    Jan 21, 2015

  • A security guard at the entrance of United Artists Theater during the premiere of the film 'The Interview' in Los Angeles, December 11, 2014


    Is the North Korean Regime Out of Control?

    Evidence points to North Korean involvement in the Sony hack. But it's impossible to know if top regime leaders sanctioned the attack or if it was carried out by another part of the government without their knowledge and consent. An unauthorized hack would only add to Kim Jong-un's worry over his regime's instability.

    Dec 23, 2014

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong-un guides a takeoff and landing drill on a highway airfield in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang, October 19, 2014


    How Should the U.S. Respond to the Sony Hack?

    North Korea is likely testing the United States and its cyber community to see where vulnerabilities may exist. So this is not just an issue of how Sony Pictures responds—this is an issue of how the United States responds.

    Dec 11, 2014

  • U.S. President Barack Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye at a joint news conference in Seoul, April 2014


    N.K. WMDs Carry Catastrophic Potential

    The failure of the United States and South Korea to prevent North Korea from gaining significant quantities of weapons of mass destruction saddles those governments with serious military responsibilities, should North Korea go to war or should its government collapse.

    Nov 19, 2014

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    RAND Experts Discuss Extended Absence of Kim Jong-un

    RAND researchers Bruce Bennett and Andrew Scobell hosted a media conference call on Thursday, October 9 to discuss the extended absence of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the regional implications of a sudden change in North Korea's government, and China's role in the region. Media relations officer Joe Dougherty moderated the call.

    Oct 9, 2014

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance at the October 8 Factory in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang August 31, 2014


    What Does North Korea Want?

    Currently, three U.S. citizens — Matthew Todd Miller, Jeffrey Fowle, and Kenneth Bae — are being detained in North Korea. It is likely that North Korea wants someone like a former U.S. president to come to North Korea instead of U.S. Ambassador Bob King, whose visits were cancelled.

    Sep 18, 2014

  • Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers carry parachutes for drop training during a military drill west of Tokyo, July 8, 2013


    Why Japan's Military Shift Is Necessary for South Korea

    With its collective self-defense policy, Japan assumes its responsibilities to support the defense of South Korea and regional security in general, an appropriate action given the economic and other independencies of the regional countries.

    Jul 7, 2014

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits an outpost at Mount Osung


    North Korea's Latest Military Operations

    Whatever form of chest thumping comes next from Kim, it is clear that his goal is to put forward the appearance of strength and power, when in reality he faces instability at home and scorn from the international community.

    Apr 8, 2014

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un applauds during a meeting of security personnel of the Korean People's Army


    Preparing for the Possibility of a North Korean Collapse

    If the North Korean government were to suddenly collapse, the consequences could jeopardize regional security in Northeast Asia and undermine U.S. interests. Preparation is needed now to convince the North Korean elites and others that South Korea-led unification in the aftermath of a collapse will be in their interests.

    Jan 29, 2014

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a ceremony of awarding party and state commendations to the exemplary officials, captains and fishermen in fisheries of the Korean People's Army


    A Death in the Family

    The ruthless purge of 67-year-old Jang Sung Taek appears to be the culmination of a power struggle that makes 30 year-old Kim Jong Un the undisputed supreme leader of North Korea.

    Jan 22, 2014

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the construction site of a ski resort on Masik Pass


    Bruce Bennett Discusses North Korea on

    To shed some light on Kim Jong-un's possible motivations—and to discuss what might happen if the North Korean government suddenly collapsed the way East Germany's did—RAND's Bruce Bennett took part in a question and answer session on

    Nov 14, 2013

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    Preparing for North Korean Regime Collapse

    In this October 2013 Congressional Briefing, defense analyst Bruce Bennett discusses the possible consequences of a North Korean government collapse, including civil war in the north; a humanitarian crisis; the potential use and proliferation of the nation's chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons; and conflict with China.

    Oct 16, 2013