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

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Deterring North Korea from Using WMD in Future Conflicts and Crises

    The United States and its allies need an effective means to deter North Korea's use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

    Jan 1, 2012

  • North Korean flag against a blue sky

    Commentary

    North Korea: Uncertain and Dangerous Times Ahead

    With his father's support over the last year, Kim Jong-Un has tried to rapidly reshape the North Korean leadership structure, giving him many new subordinates who are untried and lacking experience. Some will clearly make mistakes, writes Bruce Bennett.

    Dec 21, 2011

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    The Collapse of North Korea: Military Missions and Requirements

    In North Korea, the upcoming leadership transition in the Kim Jong-il regime will be a precarious time for the Kim family's hold on power.

    Oct 1, 2011

  • Dissertation

    Dissertation

    Beyond Rivalry and Camaraderie: Explaining Varying Asian Responses to China

    Assesses the security and economic policy responses of a representative sample of Asian states to China between 1992 and 2008.

    Mar 30, 2011

  • Commentary

    Commentary

    Book Review: 'Fallout' by Catherine Collins and Douglas Frantz

    Anyone concerned about nuclear proliferation or interested in the world of espionage will want to read Catherine Collins and Douglas Frantz's provocative new book,

    Jan 9, 2011

  • Commentary

    Commentary

    Alternative to Futile Negotiations with N.K.

    Clearly, it's time for a new strategy, one that North Korea has been loathe to discuss: hasten Korean unification under South Korea's leadership, writes Bruce Bennett.

    Nov 23, 2010

  • News Release

    News Release

    Claims RAND Advocates War Against China Are False

    Contrary to various online accounts, RAND is not advocating war against China, Korea, or any nation to advance recovery of the U.S. economy. The notion that RAND has generated such an analysis is simply a rumor, with no foundation in fact. We do not know how those who generated the rumor arrived at their conclusion.

    Nov 22, 2010

  • Dissertation

    Dissertation

    Analyzing North Korea's Decision-Making Process on its Nuclear Weapons Programs with the Rational Choice and Cognitive Choice Models

    Analyzes North Korea's Decision-making process regarding its nuclear programs with two choice models -- Rational Choice and Cognitive Choice -- and suggest effective/adaptive/robust deterrence strategy for the ROK-US combined forces.

    Aug 26, 2010

  • Commentary

    Commentary

    The Sinking of the Cheonan: Engage or Retaliate?

    North Korea's apparent sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan marks a new low in the North's provocative behavior. While some would prefer to respond with carrots rather than sticks, it is time to take action that imposes political costs on Kim Jong-il, writes Bruce Bennett.

    Jun 30, 2010

  • Report

    Report

    Uncertainties in the North Korean Nuclear Threat

    North Korea has denied the United States information about its nuclear weapon program, resulting in a high degree of uncertainty about the number and character of its nuclear weapons, how they might be used, and what impact they might have.

    May 24, 2010

  • Commentary

    Commentary

    The Cost Of Reuniting Korea

    Prospects for reuniting South and North Korea may be better than at any time since the demise in 1994 of North Korea's "Great Leader," Kim Il Sung. Several indicators suggest a possible move in this direction, writes Charles Wolf Jr.

    Mar 15, 2010

  • Commentary

    Commentary

    Managing Catastrophic North Korea Risks

    In recent years, U.S. commanders of the ROK/U.S. Combined Forces Command have been unanimous in stating that CFC could defeat a North Korean invasion. Nevertheless, they have also expressed concern about the catastrophic damage that North Korea could do to the ROK before losing, writes Bruce Bennett.

    Jan 21, 2010

  • Commentary

    Commentary

    Limited Options: Deterring North Korea and Iran

    The question today is no longer whether the United States can still prevent North Korea and Iran from emerging as nuclear-armed regional adversaries, but instead, how to prevent them from being empowered by their nuclear weapons. This won't be easy, writes Lowell H. Schwartz.

    Aug 14, 2009

  • Report

    Report

    China's International Behavior: Activism, Opportunism, and Diversification

    China is a global actor of significant and growing importance, now integrated into the international system and altering that system's dynamics. The complexity of China's ever-changing global activism raises questions about its intentions and the implications for global stability and prosperity.

    Jul 27, 2009

  • Report

    Report

    World Economic Recession Unlikely to Have Lasting Geopolitical Consequences

    Will the current global economic recession have long-term geopolitical implications? Assuming that economic recovery begins in the first half of 2010, lasting structural alterations in the international system — a substantial change in U.S.-China relations, for example — are unlikely. This is because economic performance is only one of many geopolitical elements that shape countries' strategic intent and core external policies.

    Jul 21, 2009

  • Commentary

    Commentary

    Getting Value from the U.S.-ROK Summit

    For months, N. Korea has been trying to upstage the summit between S. Korean President Lee and U.S. President Obama that is scheduled for June 16. Almost all Americans I know have heard of the recent N. Korean provocations. But few have heard anything about the U.S.-ROK summit, writes Bruce Bennett.

    Jun 15, 2009

  • Commentary

    Commentary

    No Surprise in Failure to Deter North Korea

    North Korea's latest misbehavior highlights an uncomfortable truth: the failure of the United States and the international community to deter its actions. In this case, it is pretty easy to see why North Korea has not been deterred, writes Bruce Bennett.

    Jun 2, 2009

  • Commentary

    Commentary

    N.K. Provocation Suggests Regime in Trouble

    North Korea spent weeks preparing to launch a ballistic missile that could reach the United States. It argued that the launch was intended to put a satellite into orbit. But a space launch vehicle is a ballistic missile used for a modestly different purpose, writes Bruce W. Bennett.

    Apr 9, 2009

  • Report

    Report

    United States Should Tailor Its Russia Policy to Build on Shared Views and Interests

    The United States has an opportunity to improve relations with Russia and build on shared views and interests, rather than pursue coercive steps that may one day backfire. At the same time, the United States and its allies cannot give Russia a veto on key policy goals.

    Mar 2, 2009

  • Report

    Report

    Lessons from Six Decades of Research on Deterrence, From Cold War to Long War

    The United States' 2006 reversal of its 2002 proclamation that deterrence was irrelevant to most future national security strategies is bolstered by research which shows that deterrence will likely play an ongoing role in U.S. efforts to manage a variety of threats, including both near-peer competitors and terrorist organizations.

    Oct 8, 2008