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 conducts a ground test of a high-thrust, solid-fuel engine at the Sohae Satellite Launch Station in Cholsan in North Pyongan Province, North Korea, December 15, 2922, photo by KCNA/Pool/Latin America News Agency via Reuters

    Commentary

    Standing Up to Kim Jong-un's Divide-and-Conquer Strategy

    Kim Jong-un is frightened by even the current modest flow of information into the North. He may be prepared to reduce his provocations if those threats lead to the further spread of outside information in the North. At the very least, the ROK and the United States could try such efforts.

    Jan 6, 2023

  • Kim Jong-un watches a military parade in Pyongyang to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean People's Revolutionary Army in this image released by KCNA on April 26, 2022, photo by EyePress via Reuters

    Report

    The Risks of North Korean Weapons of Mass Destruction

    In addition to its nuclear weapons, North Korea has amassed chemical, biological, and electromagnetic pulse weapons. It has also created an active cyber hacker force. What can the United States and South Korea do to deter and, if necessary, counter these threats?

    Aug 29, 2022

Explore North Korea

  • ROK Navy sailors wave U.S. and ROK flags to welcome Los Angeles-class submarine USS Cheyenne to Busan

    Commentary

    Enhancing Security Cooperation at the Korea-U.S. Summit

    The U.S.-South Korean Extended Deterrence Policy Committee was setup to deter North Korean threats. The upcoming summit should ratify the progress of this effort, reassuring both the Korean and U.S. people that these threats are being managed.

    May 7, 2013

  • Call with the Experts

    Multimedia

    Media Conference Call on Pakistan Elections

    RAND Pakistan experts Jonah Blank and Seth Jones hosted a news media conference call to discuss the May 2013 Pakistan general elections and their potential effect on U.S.-Pakistan relations. Media Relations Officer Joe Dougherty moderated the call.

    May 6, 2013

  • nuclear war game maze

    Commentary

    Thinking Through Options on North Korea

    Obviously it will not always be possible to avoid the use of force and the risk of escalation. But the US and its allies cannot take the possibility of military responses against nuclear regional adversaries off the table without limiting its own strategic options, eroding its influence, and threatening its security.

    May 3, 2013

  • Secretary Kerry Meets With South Korean President Park Geun-hye

    Commentary

    Obama-Park Summit a Critical Opportunity for the US-Korea Alliance

    To preserve and protect the peace and freedom that has seen Asia develop into a third engine of the global economy, the United States and South Korea should take steps to deepen their security cooperation in three areas: bilateral alliance management, defense force modernization, and improved regional diplomatic coordination.

    Apr 18, 2013

  • ROK guards in the DMZ

    Commentary

    A Delicate Deterrence Dance with North Korea

    How does Washington signal tenacity to a pugnacious Pyongyang and demonstrate resolve to a jittery Seoul, all without inadvertently triggering an escalatory spiral?

    Apr 11, 2013

  • Call with the Experts

    Multimedia

    Media Conference Call on Escalating Tensions on the Korean Peninsula

    RAND Asia experts Bruce Bennett, Andrew Scobell and David Shlapak hosted a news media conference call to discuss the escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula. Media Relations Officer Joe Dougherty moderated the call.

    Apr 9, 2013

  • DPRK Kumsusan Memorial Palace

    Blog

    Korea Tensions Different from Previous 'Normal Crises,' RAND Experts Tell Media

    Three RAND Corporation researchers discussed the regional and global implications of the recent flurry of bluster and provocation emanating from North Korea, during a conference call April 9 with reporters.

    Apr 9, 2013

  • Kim Il-Sung Square, Pyongyang North Korea

    Blog

    In North Korea, Belligerence Precludes Progress

    North Korean belligerence is preventing it from moving toward critical economic reform, says Richard Solomon, a senior fellow at the RAND Corporation and former assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

    Apr 3, 2013

  • North Korean soldiers attend a rally celebrating the country's third nuclear test at the Kim Il-Sung square in Pyongyang, February 14, 2013

    Commentary

    North Korea's Third Nuclear Test: A Sign of Weakness, Not Strength

    The ROK and the United States should take actions to deter subsequent North Korean provocations while punishing the country for its nuclear weapon test. Such actions could convince it that the ROK/U.S. are serious and able to impose high costs, writes Bruce Bennett.

    Feb 15, 2013

  • US Soldier clasps hands with ROK soldier during training exercise

    Journal Article

    The Sixty Years of the Korea-U.S. Security Alliance: Past, Present, and Future

    Because North Korea is a failing state, the ROK and the United States must seek to deter, and, if necessary, defeat a range of North Korean challenges, from provocations to major war.

    Jan 1, 2013

  • North Korean stamp depicting children on a rocket

    Commentary

    North Korean 'Satellite' May Fall from Sky, but That Won't Deter Kim Jong-Un

    Kim Jong-Un's regime has placed outsized import on its missile launches—despite the risk of alienating the international community—to offset the lack of success across a wide range of topics, writes Bruce Bennett.

    Dec 20, 2012

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un visits a military unit on an island in the most southwest of Pyongyang in this picture released by KCNA news agency August 18, 2012

    Commentary

    North Korea's Just Getting Started

    While many observers of North Korea have been surprised by the apparently peaceful ascension of Kim Jong-Un, there are reasons to believe that the situation in the North is not so stable, writes Bruce Bennett.

    Dec 12, 2012

  • North Korean postage stamp

    Multimedia

    Deterrence and North Korea

    Senior defense analyst Bruce Bennett discusses why North Korea presents uniquely difficult challenges and suggests new and creative approaches to deterrence.

    Oct 30, 2012

  • nuclear power plant with radioactive sign

    News Release

    RAND Stanton Research Fellows Issue New Studies Examining Nuclear Security Issues

    Three Stanton Nuclear Security Fellows at the RAND Corporation—Robert Reardon, Markus Schiller, and David Kearn—have published new research examining nuclear security issues.

    Oct 2, 2012

  • Report

    Report

    Characterizing the North Korean Nuclear Missile Threat

    Questions the current common view of the North Korean missile program and seeks to better characterize the North Korean missile threat by comparing the available data on the North Korea missile program against several possible hypotheses.

    Sep 27, 2012

  • aircraft carrier USS George Washington

    Commentary

    Beijing Unflustered by Cool Ties With Seoul

    In light of deeply-rooted policy differences, so clearly on display in China’s treatment of South Korea over the past two years, no amount of tweaking around the margins of policy, inspired by internet polling, is likely to lead to dramatic improvements in the bilateral relationship, writes Scott Warren Harold.

    Aug 20, 2012

  • North Korean soldiers

    Commentary

    North Korean Defense Chief's Retirement Has Hallmarks of Purge

    It is notable that North Korea's Politburo made the Ri announcement, suggesting a rise in power of the party relative to the military. The choice of Ri's successor is also curious, writes Bruce Bennett.

    Jul 17, 2012

  • A wargames board game

    Commentary

    Anatomy of a War Game

    War games are especially important as countries prepare to counter adversaries who use asymmetric strategies or weapons, forcing military planners to deal with unfamiliar threats, writes Bruce Bennett.

    Jun 12, 2012

  • News Release

    News Release

    Book by Noted Expert Proposes a Renaissance of Thought on Nuclear Deterrence for Today's Strategic Environment

    A new book by the late French scholar Thérèse Delpech provides a critical review and update of nuclear deterrence theory, focusing a critical eye on nuclear issues during the Cold War, examining the lessons of past nuclear crises, and outlining ways in which these lessons apply to major nuclear powers and nuclear pretenders today.

    Apr 17, 2012

  • Report

    Report

    Book by Noted Expert Proposes a Renaissance of Thought on Nuclear Deterrence for Today's Strategic Environment

    A new book by the late French scholar Thérèse Delpech provides a critical review and update of nuclear deterrence theory, focusing a critical eye on nuclear issues during the Cold War, examining the lessons of past nuclear crises, and outlining ways in which these lessons apply to major nuclear powers and nuclear pretenders today.

    Mar 27, 2012