The National Committee on North Korea
September 18, 2013
Since 1994, the detention of U.S. citizens in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has periodically been an issue in U.S.-DPRK relations. On several occasions, high-profile U.S. envoys, including former presidents, have travelled to North Korea to secure the release of U.S. citizens, at times in a nongovernmental capacity. Negotiations over the release of U.S. citizens detained in the DPRK are complicated by the fact that the U.S. does not have diplomatic representation in the country. Although official U.S. communication with the DPRK is possible through the DPRK Mission to the UN, on the ground U.S. interests in North Korea are represented through the Embassy of Sweden, and the Swedish Ambassador to the UN is authorized to make official visits to detainees.
The frequency of detentions has recently increased, beginning with the arrests of journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling in 2009. Kenneth Bae, who was arrested while entering North Korea in November 2012, was the sixth American detained in North Korea since 2009; he has also been detained for the longest time.
This issue brief, using publically available information from government and media sources, seeks to depict the circumstances of each individual’s arrest, the length of their detention, the type of sentence they were given (if any), and the conditions that led to their release.
April 24, 2013
NCNK has released a revised version of its issue brief examining the history and status of North Korea's ballistic missile program. The revised brief includes a discussion of recent developments in North Korea's missile capabilities, as well as an overview of the country's arsenal and a review of U.S.-DPRK missile negotiations.
North Korea’s development and international sales of ballistic missiles have long been seen by the United States and its allies in East Asia as a major security threat and source of regional instability, and developments in North Korea since Kim Jong-un’s assumption of power demonstrate a renewed focus on advancing its missile capabilities. The DPRK has deployed an estimated 600 short-range ballistic missiles capable of striking parts or all of South Korea, and perhaps 150-200 medium-range Nodong missiles which could potentially reach Japan. North Korea has also developed several intermediate-range or intercontinental ballistic missiles, although it is not certain if any of these missiles are currently deployed or operational. These missiles include the Taepodong-1 and -2, tests of which have triggered strong international reaction, as well as the Musudan and road-mobile KN-08 missiles, which have not been flight-tested by the DPRK.
March 11, 2013
Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last Thursday, Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies testified on the U.S. and international responses to North Korea's recent nuclear and missile tests. He emphasized that the U.S. would continue a two-track policy combining "openness to dialogue when possible," with "sustained, robust pressure through sanctions when necessary." Davies said that China remained central to altering North Korea's policies, and that diplomacy with China in this regard would be a "key locus" of U.S. efforts to put additional pressure on North Korea.
Davies also discussed human rights in North Korea, emphasizing U.S. support for an in-depth inquiry from the UN Human Rights Council. "How the DPRK addresses human rights will have a significant impact on prospects for improved U.S.-DPRK ties," he added. In response to questions from Senator Ben Cardin (D-MA), Davies said that it was important to "clear the path" for U.S. NGOs providing humanitarian assistance to North Koreans, and that he had confidence in their abilities to deliver adequately-monitored food aid if the U.S. were to resume such programs.
March 5, 2013
On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on North Korea's international criminal activities and regime financing, investigating ways to increase financial pressure on the country in response to its recent missile and nuclear tests.
Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) argued in his opening statement that the U.S. must do more to respond to North Korea's international activities, such as missile sales, drug trafficking, and counterfeiting U.S. currency. He said that the purpose of the hearing was to find ways to pressure North Korea's ruling elite by restricting their access to hard currency, and that he planned to introduce legislation based on some of the ideas generated in the hearing. In his statement, Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) added that he wanted to examine whether such efforts could be used to pressure North Korea into abandoning its nuclear and missile programs.
February 14, 2013
In the wake of North Korea’s third nuclear test earlier this week, several members of Congress have introduced bills and resolutions regarding U.S. policy toward North Korea. While still in a preliminary stage in the process of advancing through Congress, these bills and resolutions may indicate what the 113th Congress’ attitudes and policies toward North Korea will be.
In the Senate, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced S. 298, The North Korea Non-proliferation and Accountability Act of 2013, with seven co-sponsors. The bill would give the Sense of Congress that the U.S. government should seek new UN Security Council sanctions, enhance military cooperation with countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and secure the agreement of the UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly to establish an inquiry mechanism to investigate North Korean violations of human rights. The bill would also require the Secretary of State to conduct an interagency review of U.S. policy toward North Korea, reporting to Congress on recommendations for new legislation and administrative actions. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee to review the legislation and possibly modify it.
February 12, 2013
On February 12, North Korea conducted a third nuclear test. According to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, the test measured 5.0 in magnitude, about twice the size of the 2009 test.
A statement released by the North Korean news agency KCNA said that the test was conducted with a "smaller and light A-bomb unlike the previous ones," and that the country's nuclear arsenal "has become diversified," possibly indicating that the device tested was miniaturized to fit on a missile warhead or that it was uranium-based. A second statement from North Korea's Foreign Ministry added that the DPRK could "take the second and third stronger steps in succession."
A White House statement called the test "a highly provocative act" warranting "further swift and credible action by the international community." The South Korean government responded with a pledge "to maintain a high readiness posture against any possible provocation by North Korea in this time of change in administration." A PRC Foreign Ministry statement said that China "is firmly opposed to this act."
For a compilation of North Korean statements on the tests, international reactions, and analysis, click 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.