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

  • Two U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancers deployed to Andersen Air Base, Guam, fly over the Republic of Korea Sept. 21, 2016

    Commentary

    The Rorschach Test of New Nuclear Powers: Analogies for North Korean Command and Control

    Is Pyongyang more like modern Islamabad or Soviet Moscow? The answer must draw on the expertise of scholars of civil-military relations as well as nuclear strategy. Even then analogy is only a starting point—North Korea may be more or less like previous cases, but will certainly be unique.

    Oct 6, 2017

  • A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer is joined by Republic of Korea air force F-15s, during a 10-hour mission from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, into Japanese airspace and over the Korean Peninsula, July 30, 2017

    Commentary

    On North Korea, Past Foreign Policy Fiascoes Show U.S. What Not to Do

    Foreign policy disasters are often the sum of two basic errors: embracing exaggerated claims about the need to act, and inventing a conceptual magic wand to wish away potential consequences. Both are apparent in U.S. policy toward North Korea's nuclear aspirations.

    Oct 5, 2017

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects a long and medium-range ballistic rocket launch drill in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang on August 30, 2017

    Commentary

    Beyond Strategic Patience with North Korea: What Comes Next?

    North Korea says that nuclear weapons are essential to regime survival. The United States should figure out how to persuade the North Korean regime that it is less likely to survive by posing a nuclear threat than by cooperating with the international community.

    Sep 8, 2017

  • Periodical

    RAND Review: September-October 2017

    This issue highlights recent RAND research on North Korea; RAND's future workspace pilot project; and insights on the post--Arab Spring experience in the Middle East.

    Aug 24, 2017

  • Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif greets United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the U.N. headquarters in New York City, July 17, 2017

    Commentary

    How to Keep Iran from Becoming the Next North Korea

    The United States brokered an agreement to constrain North Korea's nuclear program 25 years ago, but hard-liners abandoned it with vague intentions of coercing the North into something better. They never did, and now a runaway North Korean program poses real danger. This offers a powerful reason to preserve the Iran nuclear deal.

    Aug 22, 2017

  • Military parade in Pyongyang, October 2015

    Essay

    Understanding North Korea

    How should the United States respond to North Korea's provocative behavior? Even the best military options could be cataclysmically bad, but there are nonmilitary options to convince Kim Jong Un that the costs of his provocations outweigh any benefits.

    Aug 18, 2017

  • Multimedia

    Tensions Between North Korea and the U.S.

    RAND experts Bruce Bennett, Andrew Scobell, and J.D. Williams host a conference call with news media discussing the rising tensions between North Korea and the United States. Senior Media Relations Officer Khorshied Samad moderates the call.

    Aug 16, 2017

  • People walk in front of a monitor showing news of North Korea's fresh threat in Tokyo, Japan, August 10, 2017

    Commentary

    How Did North Korea Get Its Nuclear Capabilities So Far So Fast?

    The recent North Korean missile tests and other provocations have sent shock waves through the global national security community and heightened tensions throughout the region. How has North Korea increased its missile capabilities so dramatically in such a short period of time?

    Aug 14, 2017

  • Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) are driven during a military parade in Pyongyang, North Korea, April 15, 2017

    Commentary

    The North Korea Standoff: Have We Been Here Before?

    How the United States responded to China's nuclear weapons program last century can provide lessons for today's debate about North Korea. For instance, the conclusion that the only option is deterrence is still sound.

    Aug 14, 2017

  • Chinese structures in Subi Reef, a disputed part of the South China Sea, April 21, 2017

    Commentary

    Dealing with Global Hot Spots in Times of Domestic Upheaval

    The United States faces growing dangers of war in three parts of the globe: North Korea, Syria, and the South China Sea. How will it manage any—let alone all—of them, especially with political turmoil at the highest levels at home?

    Aug 14, 2017

  • A passerby walks past a street monitor showing news of North Korea's fresh threat in Tokyo, Japan, August 9, 2017

    Commentary

    Contain, Deter, Transform: A Winning Strategy on North Korea

    North Korea's missile tests and reported progress in nuclear warhead design have produced a volatile new urgency in U.S. policy. Contain, deter, and transform isn't a radical solution, but it's one that has worked before. This approach could preserve U.S. interests while avoiding war.

    Aug 9, 2017

  • Soldiers hike up Pinnacle 4, a mountain near Camp Humphreys, for a history lesson on the Korean War and team building for U.S.-ROK forces, June 2017

    Commentary

    Lowdown on Pyeongtaek Garrison

    Camp Humphreys will become the major U.S. base in Korea. In terms of North Korean threats, the camp is roughly 100 kilometers from the Demilitarized Zone. Some North Korean ballistic missiles could cause damage at Camp Humphreys if it's targeted.

    Aug 8, 2017

  • A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptor is launched during Flight Test THAAD in Kodiak, Alaska, July 11, 2017

    Commentary

    Why THAAD Is Needed in Korea

    As the threat from North Korea has been developing over the last 30 years, the U.S. has responsibly deployed missile defenses in Korea to protect its forces and South Koreans. Today, North Korea's medium- and intermediate-range missiles require a defense able to handle higher missile re-entry speeds like the THAAD system.

    Aug 7, 2017

  • The U.S. Capitol building illuminated at night in Washington, D.C.

    Blog

    RAND's Summer Reading List for Congress

    Hill staffers can make the most of the Congressional recess with this list of must-read research and commentary on the policy issues they will be addressing this fall.

    Aug 4, 2017

  • Multimedia

    North Korea's Continuous Provocations

    In this July 17th, 2017 congressional briefing, Bruce W. Bennett, Senior International/Defense Researcher, discusses North Korea's nuclear missile programs, its changing relationship with China, and implications for U.S. policy.

    Jul 17, 2017

  • 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

  • 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 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