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The National Committee on North Korea

A North Korea Primer for 2017 Policy Makers

September 15, 2015

NCNK has published a Q&A-style primer on North Korea policy issues, intended for policy makers in the Legislative and Executive branches who will take office in 2017 (PDF version here).

Are North Korean missiles able to reach the United States homeland?

We don’t know. North Korea has been developing a road-mobile long-range missile with the potential to reach the West Coast of the U.S., but has not yet tested this system – it may be several years before this missile is fully operational, but it could still be launched at the U.S. in a crisis. It is not known with certainty whether North Korea currently has the capability to produce miniaturized warheads to fit atop its missiles, but circumstantial evidence strongly points in this direction. North Korea already has the capability to potentially smuggle its weapons of mass destructions internationally – including to the U.S.

Have U.S. and international sanctions ended North Korea’s nuclear weapons development?

No. A plethora of Congressional, Executive Branch, and United Nations sanctions have not succeeded in convincing the North Koreans to terminate their nuclear program. In fact, the North Koreans have become increasingly adept at circumventing the extensive sanctions web imposed on them. China, which has different priorities than the United States regarding North Korea, does not implement sanctions in a systematic way.

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North Korea's Fifth Nuclear Test: the U.S. Response

September 9, 2016

North Korea this morning announced that it had conducted its fifth nuclear test, saying that it had tested a "nuclear warhead that has been standardized to be able to be mounted on strategic ballistic rockets of the Hwasong artillery units of the Strategic Force of the Korean People's Army." The announcement was met with strong criticism both in the U.S. and internationally.

In a statement, President Obama said that he, ROK President Park Geun-hye, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe quickly agreed "to take additional significant steps, including new sanctions, to demonstrate to North Korea that there are consequences to its unlawful and dangerous actions." An additional statement from Secretary of State John Kerry said that the U.S. remains "open to credible and authentic talks aimed at full and verifiable denuclearization of the DPRK," but that North Korea has " made clear it would not be a credible negotiating partner."

Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton called the test "outrageous and unacceptable," and urged the U.S. to "make sure" that China "will meaningfully increase pressure on North Korea"; a statement issue by the campaign of her Republican opponent Donald Trump called it "yet one more example of Hillary Clinton's catastrophic failures as Secretary of State." 

Congressional Republicans criticized the Obama administration for not sanctioning North Korea strongly enough, with House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce both calling for the President to use the sanctions law passed earlier this year more aggressively. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Ben Cardin said the test "underscores the importance of reinforcing the international norm against nuclear testing," and criticized Congressional Republicans for threatening to cut funding to the international organization responsible for detecting such tests.

 

Flooding in North Hamgyong Province

September 7, 2016

Heavy rains from Typhoon Lionrock have reportedly caused significant flood damage in North Korea's North Hamgyong province, particularly in areas along the Tumen River, which forms part of North Korea's border with China.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency has reported that the flooding has left at least 60 people dead and more than 44,000 homeless, and has also damaged schools, roads and agricultural lands. The Daily NK has also published photos showing extensive flooding in the North Korean border town of Namyang, and says that the use of river embankments for food production purposes has exacerbated the impact of the flood.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Activities reports that UN agencies and international NGOs based in North Korea have joined the DPRK Red Cross in conducting an assessment and emergency relief mission in the affected area. Mrs. Choe Son Hui, recently appointed as President of the DPRK's Korea-America Private Exchange Society, has issued an appeal to U.S. NGOs to provide emergency support for those displaced by the flooding.

Typhoon Lionrock made landfall in northern Japan last week, killing at least eleven. The storm has also caused damage in Russia's Maritime Province and Yanbian prefecture in northeast China.

Robert Einhorn and Duyeon Kim on South Korea's Nuclear Future

August 16, 2016

Writing in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, NCNK Member Duyeon Kim and Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Robert Einhorn assess the current debate among South Korean politicians, commentators, and researchers about their country's nuclear future:

North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January led to renewed calls in South Korea for the country to build its own nuclear arsenal. Comments by high-profile politicians, conservative media outlets, and some academics are a source of much concern in Washington and the international security community. But these highly publicized, pro-nuclear reactions from a small minority provide a misleading impression of the likelihood that the Republic of Korea will actually pursue its own nuclear capability.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye and other senior officials have firmly rejected the pursuit of nuclear arms and, at least at the present time, few South Koreans believe their country will actually head down the military nuclear path. Nonetheless, even opponents of the nuclear option share much of the frustration and anxiety felt by the nuclear advocates; they believe that there is value in a public discussion of the nuclear weapons issue and warn that, unless Pyongyang’s strategic programs are curbed and the US nuclear umbrella remains reliable, voices urging South Korea to go nuclear will only grow.

To better understand the current debate in South Korea on its future nuclear options, we carried out an extensive series of interviews in April and May with a wide range of prominent South Korean leaders who support and oppose nuclear weapons: incumbent and former senior diplomats and government officials, serving and retired military commanders, National Assembly members in leadership positions, media commentators and editorial writers, leaders and emerging leaders of the business community, experts from South Korean research and academic institutions, and leaders in the South Korean civilian nuclear establishment. This assessment of the South Korean nuclear debate is based largely on those interviews, many of which were conducted on a not-for-attribution basis to encourage candor.

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And About Those Americans Long Left Behind in North Korea...

August 11, 2016

The Coalition of Families of Korean and Cold War POW/MIAs collaborates with the National Committee on North Korea to remind policy makers and the general public about American POW/MIA/human remains issues which remain outstanding from the Korean War.

While consecutive U.S. Administrations have pursued American human remains issues from the War, the matter of Americans who were alive and in North Korea at the War’s end has largely been an elusive topic in recent decades, usually absent from the talking points of American officials as they have interacted with North Korean counterparts.

Here is the link to the Coalition’s website. Their most recent newsletter is available here.

 

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.