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The National Committee on North Korea

In The Remaining Days...

April 19, 2016

We are witness to an accelerating trajectory of events which may culminate with the loss of additional Korean and American lives on the Korean Peninsula as well as disorder in Northeast Asia.

Increased attention has focused on a range of North Korean actions deemed provocative by that country’s neighbors and the international community including nuclear tests and missile launches.

The United States and South Korea continue to insist that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons program.

The North Koreans are pressing that the U.S. must first enter into a peace agreement.

While American officials maintain they are open to negotiations, North Korean leaders are convinced the U.S. will be satisfied with nothing less than collapse of the Kim Jong-Un government.

A plethora of U.S. officials in the Congress and the Administration are exasperated by North Korean provocations and what they view as ongoing cycles of North Korea’s willingness to have dialogue (charm offensives) after having engaged in provocative actions.

On the North Korean side, the American political system is often considered bewildering. If the President of the United States were to achieve agreement with North Korea, North Korean officials ponder whether the Congress would allow or block implementation of the deal. 

North Korean leaders are also uncertain that a U.S. President would be capable of ensuring full Executive Branch cooperation and implementation of any agreement.

Neither side is budging. The “tit for tat” between North Korea and the U.S., the ROK and the UN is elevating.

The Six Party Talks have failed.

Bilateral talks between the U.S. and North Korea are elusive.

South Korea closed the Kaesong Industrial Complex, where approximately 120 South Korean companies employed over 50,000 North Korean workers.

The Congress, the U.S. Executive Branch and the United Nations have elevated sanctions pressure on North Korea.

The joint military exercises between South Korean and American military forces and the upcoming Korean Workers’ Party Congress in Pyongyang are benchmarks which may facilitate additional provocative actions by North Korea - likely to be met by U.S. and ROK countermeasures.

Often ridiculed and characterized in the international media through caricatures of its leadership, North Korean officials believe they will prevail.

As their nuclear, chemical, biological and cyber warfare programs continue to expand, North Korean leaders insist they are developing a necessary defense mechanism to protect against a U.S. military strike on their country.

President Eisenhower’s threat to use nuclear weapons to bring about an end to the Korean War, and later U.S. consideration of utilizing nuclear weapons in response to North Korea’s seizure of the USS Pueblo are not lost on the North Koreans.

There is a sense among some of the American specialists that once the Party Congress has adjourned, the North Korea situation will “de-escalate”. Perhaps. However, we are now traveling a new road.

In the event a de-escalation of the current situation presents opportunity for renewed talks between the U.S. and North Korea, any final resolution is impossible without addressing the mutual mistrust which has deepened over decades. For some in the U.S., efforts toward this end will be a ray of hope that a peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue will be achieved.  Other Americans will be less enthusiastic, viewing such a development as hindering their goal of witnessing a collapse and termination of the present government in North Korea. 

The final days of a less-focused Obama Administration and the transition period to a new Administration may ultimately present the most dangerous time of all. What will be the actual U.S. policy toward North Korea until January 20, 2017 and who will truly be in charge of that policy’s implementation?

Will additional actions deemed provocative by the international community emanate from North Korea during the U.S. leadership transition?

Keith Luse, Executive Director

Anna Fifield Event

April 1, 2016

The National Committee on North Korea and The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation recently co-hosted a luncheon salon featuring Anna Fifield, Tokyo Bureau Chief for “The Washington Post” since 2014.  

During her remarks Fifield shared “behind-the-scenes” details of North Korea – related coverage including lack of access to key South Korean government officials and her perspective on Japanese attempts to resolve the long-standing abduction issue with North Korea. Fifield also commented on the evolving U.S. strategy pertaining to North Korea.

The event was the second in a series of annual “Fifield Lunches” originated last year by NCNK.

White House Issues Executive Order Expanding Sanctions

March 17, 2016

Yesterday, President Obama issued an Executive Order expanding the scope of U.S. sanctions against North Korea, putting in place "blocking sanctions" prohibiting the DPRK government or Korean Workers' Party from accessing the international financial system, sanctioning the transportation, mining, energy, and financial services sectors of the North Korean economy, and also creating a mechanism to enforce sanctions imposed by the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act and UN Security Council Resolution 2270.

Concurrently, the Treasury Department published a list of additional North Korean entities designated under the U.S. sanctions regime, and also published several general licenses indicating activities which are effectively exempt from sanctions. One of these licenses specified that certain NGO activities in North Korea would not be subject to sanctions, including the provision of food and medical aid, non-commercial development projects, and activities to support democracy and education in North Korea. The Treasury has also published an updated FAQ providing more detail about how the sanctions regime has changed.

The Peace Treaty Offer and Response

March 14, 2016

The DPRK Foreign Ministry’s Institute for American Studies has recently released an essay calling for the replacement of the Armistice Agreement with a peace agreement between North Korea and the United States. The North Korean call for a peace treaty is not new, and was re-emphasized last fall. However, this essay provides some additional detail on the North Korean stance on proposed peace talks.

Jong Nam Hyok, the essay’s author, indicates that proposed peace talks would be mostly bilateral between the U.S. and DPRK, arguing that the United Nations Command (which signed the 1953 Armistice Agreement) was a veil for the United States, and did not represent the United Nations, the 15 “satellite countries” that also fought under the UNC banner, or the “south Korean puppet army.” On South Korean involvement in peace talks, the author writes that while South Korea is not “totally irrelevant” to peace talks, it would be “meaningless” to hold inter-Korean peace negotiations while U.S. forces remain in South Korea. Similarly, while the essay acknowledges China’s position (via the People’s Volunteer Army) as a signatory to the Armistice Agreement, it argues that “the U.S. should be the first to come out to sign a peace agreement,” with China playing a minimal role.

The essay warns that “at present, the central boundary line of the ground military demarcation line drawn by the Armistice Agreement is barely retained,” and that only a peace agreement can prevent any “accidental incident” from leading to a “full-scale nuclear war.” It specifies: “The danger of a war can be completely averted only when the US withdraws its troops stationed in south Korea, quits reinforcing its armaments, and suspends hostile military acts such as joint military drills as a result of the conclusion of a peace agreement.”   


North Korean Tuberculosis Patients at Risk

March 9, 2016

The Washington Post reports that new unilateral sanctions imposed by South Korea may prevent the shipment of needed tuberculosis medicine to North Korea. The Eugene Bell Foundation, which focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, says that it has been unable to obtain an export license to ship medicine from South Korea to its treatment centers in the North. 

A spokesperson for the ROK Unification Ministry said that the South Korean government was reviewing the export license request.

In a press release, the Eugene Bell Foundation said that it was "declaring a medical emergency and is appealing to the Korean people and the international community to help save their lives." The statement indicated the urgency of the situation: 

At risk are approximately 1,500 patients infected with highly resistant strains of TB that are untreatable with standard TB medication. These patients must have the EugeneBell medications to complete the necessary eighteen month course of treatment for this dangerous disease. If treatment is interrupted, within as little as two weeks they will be at risk of developing extensively drug resistant (XDR) TB; resistance to the medications they are now taking. Should they return home to die, everyone who comes into contact with them will be at risk of contracting this particularly dangerous type of ‘super-TB.’

UN Adopts New Sanctions Resolution

March 3, 2016

On Wednesday, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to adopt Resolution 2270, expanding sanctions against North Korea in the wake of its recent nuclear test and rocket launch. The resolution considerably expands international sanctions against North Korea, including a requirement that UN Member States inspect North Korean cargo transiting through their territory; new sanctions  on North Korean coal and mineral sectors; tightened financial sanctions; and a ban on the export of aviation fuel to North Korean territory.  The sanctions include humanitarian exemptions, as well as exemptions on transactions "determined to be exclusively for livelihood purposes."

In a statement at the Security Council meeting, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power called for States to fully implement the "comprehensive, robust, and unprecedented" sanctions, saying that North Korea had "consistently prioritized its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes over providing for the most basic needs of its own people." Chinese Ambassador Liu Jieyi stated Beijing's opposition to North Korea's recent actions, and called for "the parties concerned to push forward negotiations to advance denuclearization and replace the peace mechanism in parallel."

A North Korean statement denounced the "unprecedented and gangster-like" resolution. The statement also indicated that, in response to it, Kim Jong Un had gone to observe the North Korean military's test-firing of a "large-caliber multiple launch rocket system of new type." Kim reportedly stressed "the need to get the nuclear warheads deployed for national defence always on standby so as to be fired any moment."

Congress Passes North Korea Sanctions Bill

February 13, 2016

The Senate passed on Wednesday, by a 96-0 vote, the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016, a modified version of a sanctions bill approved by the House of Representatives last month. On Friday, the House passed the Senate version of the legislation, sending it to President Obama to be signed into law. The White House has indicated that it would not oppose the bill, with a spokesman saying that "We're philosophically and intellectually in the same place as the Congress on this."

The legislation would seek to further restrict North Korea's access to the international financial system, mandating sanctions on individuals or entities facilitating North Korea's WMD programs or other illicit behavior. It also includes provisions addressing cyber security and North Korean human rights. A summary of the Act is available here.

International Responses to North Korea's Satellite Launch

February 9, 2016

On Saturday, North Korea launched an rocket carrying a Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite into orbit, with the country's space agency calling the launch a "complete success" and vowing to "launch more satellites of Juche into the space" in the future.

The UN Security Council called the launch "a serious violation" of UN Security Council resolutions prohibiting the DPRK from the use of ballistic missile technology and pledged to "adopt expeditiously" a new resolution in response. U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice condemned the launch as well as "North Korea's determination to prioritize its missile and nuclear weapons programs over the well-being of its people." Shortly after the launch, a South Korean defense official announced that the ROK and U.S. would begin negotiations to deploy the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea.

Early analysis by John Schilling at 38 North indicates that the space launch vehicle carrying the satellite was largely similar to the Unha-3 launched in December 2012. Other reports have quoted U.S. government officials saying that the North Korean satellite is tumbling in orbit, as happened with its previous launch.


Who We Are

The National Committee is a non-partisan coalition of individuals with extensive and complementary knowledge of and direct experience related to the society, economy, government, and history of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

We are a diverse group. A number of members served as diplomats in some of the landmark U.S.-DPRK negotiations. Some have authored major books on the history, society, and security of the Korean Peninsula. Other members have worked in virtually all parts of North Korea, and on issues related to the country's current economic, humanitarian, refugee, and medical crises. Some of our experience reaches back to the era of the Korean War. Most have extensive contacts in the Republic of Korea, China, Japan, and Russia related to the Korean Peninsula. While the National Committee on North Korea is non-governmental, several of the members have worked in official positions and have ongoing ties with current or past administrations and with the United States Congress.

The idea to form a National Committee on North Korea originated during The Musgrove III Conference held in mid-May 2004, which was attended by many of the founding committee members. The first meeting was held on November 4, 2004.