North KoreaFor the latest North Korea related news and analysis, please see the North Korea section of our blog, Nukes of Hazard.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il with his son and heir apparent Kim Jong-un.
North Korea has a new leader, Kim Jong-un, the son of the late Kim Jong-il and grandson of the regime’s founder Kim Il-sung. While it appears the young leader in his late twenties is still trying to consolidate his power base, it seems likely that he will continue the same nuclear and foreign policies of his predecessors. Questions remain about how to address the North Korean nuclear dilemma amid growing beliefs that Pyongyang is unwilling to surrender its nuclear ambitions.
In April 2012, North Korea defied international warnings and launched a three-stage long-range rocket and satellite on the heels of a nuclear and missile moratoria deal it struck with the United States on February 29. Pyongyang claims the launch was for peaceful scientific purposes, but the international community regarded it as a long-range ballistic missile test. The launch failed, but that has not quelled fears that Pyongyang seeks to develop ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads. In November 2010, the North sank a South Korean vessel the Cheonan and shelled Yeonpyeong Island that killed civilians.
The North Korean proliferation threat comes in two forms: vertical (development of its nuclear capability) and horizontal (spread of nuclear know-how and technology to others). Pyongyang tested two nuclear devices and is believed to be working on a third nuclear test. Experts say Pyongyang has enough fissile material for 4-6 nuclear weapons. The regime is also scrambling to develop its ballistic missile program. The critical question is whether and when Pyongyang will be able to tip a missile with a nuclear warhead that can reach US allies in the region or even the US mainland. The regime also appears to be developing its ties with other actors bent on acquiring a nuclear capability, including those in the Middle East.
North Korea’s fundamental objective seems clear: regime survival and status as a nuclear power. It has recently revised its constitution, which now refers to North Korea as a nuclear weapon state.
Pyongyang walked away from the Six-Party Talks in 2008, and the viability of the framework has been put into question. Since taking office, the Obama administration appears to have opted for containing and managing the problem, and will continue to do so until after the 2012 presidential elections in the wake of the broken February 2012 deal. Progress on the nuclear dilemma will only come from aggressive diplomacy and creative ideas – backed by the pressure of sanctions – which directly target the crux of denuclearization, namely, the irreversible removal of all fissile materials and explosive devices and the dismantlement of all proliferation-prone nuclear facilities.
TEXT OF NUCLEAR AGREEMENTS
Nov 9, 2010
Aug 30, 2010
Jun 12, 2009
Oct 14, 2006
Jun 28, 2005