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The National Committee on North Korea

H.Con.Res.40 - Encouraging reunions of divided Korean American families

November 30, 2016

On November 29, 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives passed joint resolution H.Con.Res.40, encouraging North Korea to allow Korean Americans to meet with their families in North Korea. The timely resolution comes as the 114th Congress enters the last few weeks of its 2nd and final session and, more importantly, as many of the 100,000 divided Korean American families pass away. The Korean War divided roughly 10 million families, and many have since become American citizens. In a press release on the resolution’s passage, Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) said, “This resolution lays the foundation for divided family members to meet their loved ones whom they have not been able to see for over six decades… These Americans have every right to see their loved ones and it is our duty to help them by encouraging reunions.”

Rep. Rangel, who is a Korean War veteran and first introduced this resolution in February 2014, further noted, “The United States must remain firmly committed to the humanitarian aspects of family reunions.” The passage and introduction of this resolution would not have been possible without the efforts of the Council of Korean Americans, Korean American Coalition, Korean American Associate of Greater New York, and, especially, Divided Families USA, who have been championing this issue for nearly a decade. The resolution will now go to the Senate for approval, where it has bipartisan support from Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Mark Warner (D-VA). 


Second Edition of the North Korea Primer for 2017 Policy Makers

November 21, 2016

NCNK has published a second edition of it's 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. This second edition includes information on additional issues and also updated answers to relevant questions (PDF version here).

Is China going to assist the United States toward the elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program?

Unlikely. U.S. Administrations have actively looked to China to convince North Korea, one way or the other, to give up its nuclear weapons program.  China has increasingly become North Korea’s key conduit to the world and is the source of about 90% of Pyongyang’s foreign trade.  However, Beijing has consistently prioritized regional stability over denuclearization and has not been willing to take actions that could potentially destabilize North Korea. The Chinese are focused on “managing” the overall North Korea situation as opposed to pursuing resolution of the nuclear issue.

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

Eventually. A pre-emptive strike targeting North Korea will likely be recommended to President Trump once U.S. defense experts determine that North Korea has developed the capability of launching a missile fitted with a miniaturized nuclear warhead that could reach the United States. 

North Korea has made significant technical progress in its missile program in the past year and is developing a road-mobile long-range missile with the potential to reach the continental United States.


Fall Roundup of Recent Legislation on North Korea

October 17, 2016

In the wake of the North Korea’s fifth nuclear test in early September, Congress has introduced several new resolutions and legislation on North Korea and taken action on a number of related pending items.

In direct response to the fifth nuclear test, Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, introduced a resolution condemning North Korea for its “dangerous provocations” and calling on it to abandon its nuclear weapons and missile programs immediately. The resolution further calls on China to use its economic and diplomatic leverage on North Korea and calls on the UN Security Council to adopt additional sanctions measures against North Korea. It also reaffirms the American alliance, defense, and deterrence commitments in the region, including the deployment of THAAD and other missile defense efforts.



A North Korea Primer for 2017 Policy Makers

September 15, 2016

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.


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.



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.