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.

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during a Report on Enlarged Meeting of the 2nd Political Bureau of the 8th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this image released July 5, 2021, photo by KCNA via Reuters

    Report

    A Realistic Approach for Dealing with North Korea's Nuclear Weapons

    Nov 3, 2021

    Pursuing the unachievable goal of convincing North Korea to surrender its nuclear weapons can only complicate the real challenge of managing a nuclear-armed North Korea. The United States and its allies should instead focus on deterrence and a series of negotiated agreements to control further development.

  • The Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, a mausoleum in Pyongyang, North Korea, photo by narvikk/iStock

    Report

    How Does North Korea Evade Sanctions?

    Sep 23, 2021

    The United Nations has imposed increasingly restrictive sanctions on North Korea after each of the six nuclear weapons tests that it conducted between 2009 and 2016. Enforcement has been mixed, and North Korea has become adept at several techniques to evade sanctions.

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  • Blog

    The Most Popular RAND Research of 2021

    As another extraordinary year draws to a close, we continue to believe that objective, nonpartisan research and analysis has a key role to play in navigating what continues to be a difficult time. Here are the 10 research projects that resonated most with rand.org readers in 2021.

    Dec 22, 2021

  • A new type of submarine-launched ballistic missile being launched in waters off the east coast of North Korea in a photo released by the North Korean Central News Agency on October 20, 2021, photo by KCNA via/Latin America News Agency via Reuters Connect

    Commentary

    North Korea's Nuclear Arsenal and Prospects for Regional Peace

    Nuclear talks between the United States and North Korea have hovered at a standstill since 2019. With the door to diplomacy seemingly closed and North Korea marching forward on weapons development and making threatening statements, what are the prospects for Pyongyang's denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula?

    Dec 16, 2021

  • ROK combat medics load a simulated wounded soldier into a U.S. Army helicopter during a joint exercise in Uijongbu, South Korea, March 5, 2008, photo by MC1 Lou Rosales/U.S. Navy

    Commentary

    Preserving the ROK-U.S. Alliance by Sustaining Military Exercises

    The Republic of Korea (ROK)/U.S. military forces based in the ROK are in a constant state of training, which is required to maintain military effectiveness. North Korea seeks to stop this ROK/U.S. military training, but taking the North Korean complaints seriously could be a mistake.

    Nov 30, 2021

  • Blog

    North Korea, Sexual Violence in the U.S. Military, America's Labor Shortage: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on dealing with a nuclear North Korea, preventing sexual violence in the military, supporting immigrant children in U.S. schools, and more.

    Nov 5, 2021

  • A new submarine-launched ballistic missile is seen during a test in this undated photo released on October 19, 2021, photo by KCNA via Reuters

    Commentary

    Reducing the Role of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Could Make North Korea Happy

    The threats emanating from North Korea pose a useful case study for the potential implications of reducing the role of U.S. nuclear weapons. Additional U.S. nuclear deterrence declaratory strategy, backed up by appropriate nuclear weapon capabilities and planning, may be needed.

    Oct 20, 2021

  • Kim Jong-un speaks to officials at the Defence Development Exhibition, in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this undated photo released on October 12, 2021, photo by KCNA via Reuters

    Commentary

    North Korea's 'Business as Usual' Missile Provocations

    North Korea has revved up its cycle of missile provocations, its go-to method of securing leverage against the United States and South Korea in the on-again off-again nuclear negotiations. How will the United States and South Korea choose to respond?

    Oct 14, 2021

  • Blog

    Four-Day School Weeks, Domestic Terrorism, North Korea: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on the trade-offs of a four-day school week, how to counter domestic violent extremism, racial disparities in who is convicted of more-serious speeding charges, and more.

    Oct 8, 2021

  • U.S. and Japanese military commanders visit the Misawa Air Base during Keen Sword/Orient Shield 21 in Aomori, Japan, October 28, 2020, photo by Sgt. Raquel Birk/U.S. Army

    Commentary

    Japan's Potential Acquisition of Ground-Launched Land-Attack Missiles: Implications for the U.S.-Japanese Alliance

    If Japan acquired ground-based strike capabilities, it would have significant consequences for the U.S.-Japanese alliance. American and Japanese policymakers may need to have a new and expanded set of conversations about how such capabilities would be used and how the alliance could adjust to incorporate them.

    Sep 9, 2021

  • Blog

    Insights on Afghanistan, Back to School, North Korea: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on the collapse in Afghanistan, what parents think about sending kids back to school, insights from game theory on North Korean denuclearization, and more.

    Aug 20, 2021

  • North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un speaks at a plenary meeting of 8th central committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in this still image taken from KRT footage on June 16, 2021, photo by KRT TV/Reuters

    Report

    Engaging with North Korea: Lessons from Game Theory

    Applying game theory to the situation in North Korea may provide insights into how the United States can deal with Kim Jong-un and carry out negotiations on denuclearization.

    Aug 12, 2021

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un take a walk in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this picture released by KCNA on June 21, 2019, photo by KCNA via Reuters

    Commentary

    Can China Be a Real Partner in Bringing North Korea to the Nuclear Negotiating Table?

    The United States remains committed to the goal of denuclearization of North Korea. China is more interested in maintaining a delicate geopolitical balance to counter U.S. influence in the region and in expanding its own reach. Thus, prospects for productive U.S.-China cooperation on the North Korean nuclear threat seem faint at best.

    Jul 14, 2021

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects a long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 in an undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency, May 15, 2017, photo by KCNA via Reuters

    Commentary

    North Korean Nuclear Weapons Pose an Existential Threat to China

    Despite the current border closures between their two countries, China and North Korea remain resolutely pledged to a “blood-alliance.” But this partnership has vastly different implications depending on which side of the border you consider.

    Jul 13, 2021

  • Blog

    Equity in Research, North Korean Instability, Traffic Stops: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on how RAND applies an equity lens to research, instability in North Korea, what police think about traffic stops, and more.

    Jul 9, 2021

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks during the 3rd Plenary Meeting of 8th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang, North Korea, in an image released June 17, 2021, photo by KCNA via Reuters

    Commentary

    Trying to Manage North Korean Instability Risks

    The regime in North Korea usually makes extreme efforts to prevent outsiders and even its own people from seeing instabilities there. But Kim Jong-un appears to be taking some risks trying to solidify his grip in the wake of events undermining his control.

    Jun 30, 2021

  • President Joe Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in attend the Medal of Honor Ceremony for Ret. U.S. Army Col. Ralph Puckett, Jr. at the White House in Washington, D.C., May 21, 2021, photo by Carlos Fyfe/Official White House photo

    Commentary

    Takeaways from the Biden-Moon Summit: Three Observations on China

    North Korea was not the only elephant in the room during the recent U.S.–South Korea summit. In the broader context of U.S. foreign policy priorities and South Korea's geopolitical concerns, China was probably the larger presence.

    Jun 7, 2021

  • People take part in the celebrations for the National Liberation Day near the Arch of Reunification in the city of Pyongyang, North Korea, August 14, 2005, photo by Yuri Maltsev/Reuters

    Commentary

    An Economic Blueprint for North Korea

    It would be simplistic to think that developing detailed blueprints for economic development in North Korea could on its own cut through decades of conflict and mistrust, triggering political and economic reform. But by expanding the terms of the debate it might move the needle on peace.

    Jun 4, 2021

  • President Joe Biden participates in a restricted bilateral meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., May 21, 2021, photo by Adam Schultz/Official White House Photo

    Commentary

    The Biden-Moon Meetings: Much Ado About Something?

    The May summit meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in elicited a wide range of opinion about its value. With diplomacy-first progressives in power simultaneously in both nations for the first time in two decades, even subtle gains may be significant.

    Jun 4, 2021

  • South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Joe Biden hold a joint news conference at the White House, in Washington, D.C., May 21, 2021, photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

    Commentary

    U.S.-ROK Summit: Assessing Moon's Vaccine and Peace Promises

    U.S. President Joe Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in held their first in-person summit in Washington in May. But beyond the formalities, how fruitful was this first sit-down, face-to-face, no-mask meeting for Moon?

    Jun 3, 2021