Center for Arms Control

North Korea

North Korea

For 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.


Lieutenant General Robert G. Gard, Jr. (USA, ret.)

202-546-0795 ext. 2111
rgard AT armscontrolcenter DOT org


Oct 29, 2014

Business Insider Publishes Post by Sarah Tully on North Korea's Nuclear Program

For over a year, the U.S. has been all eyes on Iran, but is this distracting us from states that already have nuclear weapons—such as the ever-unpredictable North Korea? On the Nukes of Hazard blog, Sarah Tully suggests that the DPRK’s nuclear program is “flying under the radar” while the U.S. spends its days engaging Iran and refusing to engage North Korea. The post was most recently published in the Business Insider.

Oct 25, 2014

The Diplomat Cites Center Fact Sheet on North Korea

The Center's factsheet on North Korea's nuclear program was cited in a The Diplomat article published last week. The article was published after Gen. Curtis Scaparotti revealed his confidence in North Korea's ability to place a nuclear warhead on a missile.

May 10, 2014

The Standard-Times Publishes OpEd on North Korea by Lt. General Gard & Claudia Cheffs

"Refusing to negotiate with the North Koreans unless they make concessions dictated by Washington is counterproductive. Watchful waiting simply results in further advances in the North Korean nuclear weapons program, making America and its allies less secure. Kim Jong Un is willing to talk, and it's in America's interest to pick up the phone and call him," writes Lt. Gen. Gard and Claudia Cheffs for The Standard-Times.

Feb 7, 2014

Christian Science Monitor Story on Joint U.S.-South Korea Military Exercises Quotes Duyeon Kim

“Hopefully Pyongyang takes this as a sign and refrains from provocations that could lead to escalation and potential miscalculations,” says Duyeon Kim, Senior Fellow for Non-Proliferation and East Asia at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington.

Jan 9, 2014

Arms Control Today Publishes Feature on Sustaining Nuclear Security by Duyeon Kim

"The biennial nuclear security summit process is entering its third round, but despite the significant progress made thus far, nuclear security still is not dramatic or 'sexy' enough to sustain top-level attention and interest," writes the Center's senior fellow Duyeon Kim in the Arms Control Today January/February 2014 edition. The Nuclear Security Summits achieved significant progress, but much more work remains. In her latest piece on nuclear security, Duyeon Kim discusses the urgency of the work as well as ways to measure success for the next two summits and beyond.

Nov 21, 2013

The Diplomat Publishes OpEd on U.S. Policy Toward North Korea by General Gard

"The only hope for achieving the objective of a nuclear free Korean Peninsula, or even reducing the threat posed by a nuclear armed North Korea, is through negotiations. Isolating and sanctioning Pyongyang increases its incentive to earn hard currency by selling weapons and nuclear technology on the black market. It is difficult to understand why the U.S. administration is willing to negotiate with Iran on its nuclear program but not with North Korea," writes Lt. General Robert Gard for The Diplomat.

Nov 8, 2013

Global Security Newswire Story on Restarting North Korea Talks Quotes Duyeon Kim

"Beijing seems to define 'success' as merely jump-starting six-way talks while Washington and Seoul define it as a 'credible, authentic' process that leads to North Korea’s denuclearization," Duyeon Kim, a senior fellow focusing on East Asia at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, told Global Security Newswire.



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