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The National Committee on North Korea

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.

Senate Committee Approves Gardner-Menendez Sanctions Bill

January 29, 2016

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee today approved a North Korea sanctions bill offered as a substitute to sanctions legislation which passed the House earlier this month. The Senate bill incorporated elements of previous bills introduced by Senators Cory Gardner and Bob Menendez.

The Committee's press release on the legislation is available here. NCNK's comparative analysis of the House and Senate bills is available here.

Analysis of HR 757's Potential Impact on NGO Activities in North Korea

January 14, 2016

On Tuesday, January 12, the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 757, the North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act, on a 418-2 vote. The content of the legislation signaled Members' approval for the continued provision of humanitarian assistance to North Korea on the part of U.S. non-governmental organizations (NGOs). However, the bottom line for NGOs is that the bill may constrict the provision of such assistance.

NCNK's analysis, available here, examines the potential impact of HR 757 in its current form on U.S. humanitarian and NGO activities in North Korea.

House Votes to Pass North Korea Sanctions Bill

January 13, 2016

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted to approve H.R. 757, the North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act of 2016, on a 418-2 vote. The bill was a slightly modified version of legislation that was approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee in February 2015. Among other changes, a provision prohibiting any transactions with the government of North Korea (including for humanitarian purposes) was removed, and a requirement that the administration report on nuclear cooperation between Iran and North Korea was added. (The Committee Report for H.R. 757 is available here.)

Senate leaders have indicated that their chamber will consider similar sanctions legislation in the near future. There are two sanctions bills under consideration in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced by Senators Gardner or Menendez; it is currently unclear whether a compromise between the two bills will be made.

For more, see NCNK's comparative analysis of the three bills under consideration. 

New North Korean Sanctions Should Reflect Humanitarian Concerns

January 8, 2016

In an opinion article for NK News, NCNK Executive Director Keith Luse urges policymakers to consider NGOs, and those whose lives depend on their work, when crafting a response to North Korea's latest nuclear test.

North Korea’s reported test of a hydrogen bomb may facilitate U.S. Congressional passage of additional sanctions targeting North Korea, and the UN Security Council will soon begin negotiating on a new sanctions resolution. Whenever North Korea engages in acts deemed provocative by U.S. officials or the international community few viable options are available for response.

However, the desired impact of sanctions on North Korea has been hindered by intermittent (at best) implementation by the international community and particularly by China. Despite years of adding layer after layer to the onion of the global sanctions regime, North Korea’s nuclear program and missile projects proceed apace. Aided by a vast global trading company network and an immense web of affiliate organizations, the North Koreans are convinced they can continue to outmaneuver the international community’s best efforts to shut down their nuclear and other prohibited activities.

As new sanctions legislation moves forward in the U.S. House and the Senate, it will be tempting for some members to travel down a new road with the intended destination of effectively ending any humanitarian assistance to North Korea or other forms of principled engagement on the part of U.S. non-government organizations. In years past, one U.S. senator expressed to me his opposition to any form of assistance to North Korea – even aid for orphans or pregnant mothers, including aid that could be well-monitored and reach its intended targets – because he viewed any assistance going into the country as enabling the regime of Kim Jong Il. Such sentiment appears to have grown on Capitol Hill over the intervening years.


Ambassador Stephen Bosworth, in Memoriam

January 7, 2016

NCNK sends its condolences to the family and friends of Ambassador Stephen Bosworth, who passed away on January 4. Secretary of State John Kerry called him "one of our nation’s most capable and admired diplomats" whose "unique brand of diplomacy blended the gravitas of a statesman and the timing of a comedian."

Ambassador Bosworth had served as U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia, the Philippines, and South Korea, and as Special Representative for North Korea Policy. In addition to his government service, Ambassador Bosworth had served as Chairman of the U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS and formerly as Dean of the Fletcher School of International Affairs at Tufts University. From  1995-97, he was Executive Director of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), an inter-governmental organization that worked to implement the Agreed Framework with North Korea. 

Both in and out of government, Ambassador Bosworth was active in Korean affairs, frequently participating in unofficial Track II negotiations with North Korea.  In a statement sent to NK News, DPRK Deputy Ambassador to the UN Jang Il Hun said “he was an outstanding diplomat and a man of great personality and vision, advocating for dialogue, not confrontation, with the DPRK."

North Korea's Fourth Nuclear Test

January 6, 2016

North Korea announced yesterday that it had successfully tested a nuclear device, which it called a "newly developed H-bomb," marking its fourth nuclear test since 2006. Data from the U.S. Geological Service and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization confirmed that an "unusual seismic event" had taken place in North Korea.

However, nuclear experts and South Korean government sources quickly expressed strong doubt about the possibility that North Korea had tested a two-stage hydrogen bomb, citing technical barriers and pointing out the inconsistency between the test’s apparent low yield and the expected yield of even a fizzled thermonuclear test. Several analysts speculated that North Korea could have tested a boosted fission device, which would use a small amount of fusion fuel to increase the yield of a fission reaction – designs for such weapons can be significantly less complex than those for two-stage thermonuclear bombs, which have an exponentially higher yield.

International leaders responded quickly to the announcement. ROK President Park Geun-hye said that North Korea "will pay the right price for the provocation" and urged the UN Security Council to adopt new sanctions. In a statement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced that it was "firmly opposed" to the test and urged the DPRK "to honor its commitment to denuclearization and stop taking actions that worsen the situation." UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon condemned North Korea's action, saying that "This act is profoundly destabilising for regional security and seriously undermines international non-proliferation efforts"

In Washington, several Members of Congress condemned the test and indicated their intention to impose new sanctions on North Korea. Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, indicated that he would work "to bring further pressure to bear on the brutal regime in Pyongyang." The Ranking Member of the Committee, Senator Ben Cardin, said that he intends "to work with my colleagues in the Senate on legislation to impose additional sanctions on North Korea and would also urge additional sanctions by the United Nations Security Council."

For more information, see NCNK's newly-revised Issue Brief on North Korea's Nuclear Program, and its comparative analysis of legislation currently under consideration in Congress.

Joint ROK-Japan Statement on Comfort Women

December 29, 2015

On December 28, the Foreign Ministers of Japan and South Korea issued a joint statement addressing the issue of comfort women. Fumio Kishida, the Japanese Foreign Minister, stated that the issue, "with an involvement of the Japanese military authorities at that time, was a grave affront to the honor and dignity of large numbers of women," and expressed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's "sincere apologies and remorse." ROK Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se stated that, with the announcement, his government viewed the issue as "resolved finally and irreversibly," and that the governments of South Korea and Japan would "refrain from accusing or criticizing each other regarding this issue in the international community." The two countries also agreed to establish a jointly-administered foundation to provide support to former comfort women, to be paid for by the Japanese government.

The U.S. State Department issued a statement praising the announcement, saying that it "will promote healing and help to improve relations between two of the United States’ most important allies." An article in the Choson Sinbo, a newspaper published by pro-DPRK ethnic Koreans in Japan and associated with the North Korean government, said that it was "humiliating" for South Korea to reach such an agreement, saying that Japan did not acknowledge legal responsibility for the issue.


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.