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  • Author: Frank Aum, Jacob Stokes, Patricia M. Kim, Atman M. Trivedi, Rachel Vandenbrink, Jennifer Staats, Joseph Yun
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: A joint statement by the United States and North Korea in June 2018 declared that the two countries were committed to building “a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.” Such a peace regime will ultimately require the engagement and cooperation of not just North Korea and the United States, but also South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan. This report outlines the perspectives and interests of each of these countries as well as the diplomatic, security, and economic components necessary for a comprehensive peace.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Diplomacy, Economy, Peace
  • Political Geography: Russia, Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea, Korean Peninsula, United States of America
  • Author: Nat Kretchun
  • Publication Date: 06-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Through the successive regimes of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Un, North Korea has maintained near-total control over the information that reaches its citizens. Now, as more and more North Koreans use networked devices such as smartphones, the regime is employing modern forms of censorship and surveillance to control information and curtail freedom of expression. This report argues that the United States and its allies need a new information strategy to end the social isolation of the North Korean people and improve their long-term welfare.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Communications, Authoritarianism, Media, News Analysis, Peace
  • Political Geography: Asia, North Korea, North America, United States of America
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: This is the second in the Senior Study Group (SSG) series of USIP reports examining China’s influence on conflicts around the world. A group of fifteen experts met from September to December 2018 to assess China’s interests and influence in bringing about a durable settlement of the North Korean nuclear crisis. This report provides recommendations for the United States to assume a more effective role in shaping the future of North Korea in light of China’s role and interests. Unless otherwise sourced, all observations and conclusions are those of SSG members.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Nuclear Weapons, Conflict, Negotiation, Peace
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Frank Aum
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The surprise visit to Beijing by North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un could offer both Kim and Chinese President Xi Jinping stronger hands for upcoming discussions with the United States, says USIP analyst Frank Aum. As news of the meeting broke, Aum, who previously advised the U.S. Defense Department on Korea issues, discussed its implications
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: North Korea
  • Author: Leonard S. Rubenstein
  • Publication Date: 01-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: During the 1990s, economic mismanagement, political oppression, natural disaster, and loss of external subsidies after the end of communism led to a calamitous decrease in food production in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). The public health infrastructure, including water and sanitation systems, drug distribution and supply chains, and local clinics and hospitals, also deteriorated. At least half a million people died of starvation and millions more suffered acute or chronic malnutrition. Malnutrition increased vulnerability to disease at a time when the health system was incapable of effective response. Fifeen years later, neither health nor the food systems have recovered as the economy persistently stagnates. Health continues to be a low priority for the government. The availability of food is insufficient to meet population needs, hospitals and clinics are significantly ill-equipped, the medical workforce lacks appropriate training, and corruption in drug distribution is pervasive. Malnutrition and anemia, as well as diseases associated with poor sanitation, remain widespread. Over the last few years, DPRK has begun to accept international assistance to address health system needs, most notably to vaccinate children. Although these initiatives address some infrastructure needs, the continued centralized control of health and the lack of open discussion about key issues renders the possibility of reforms sufficient to meet the health needs of the people of North Korea dim. During the economic crisis, tens of thousands of North Koreans migrated to China despite harsh measures imposed by both governments to restrict border crossing and a refusal by China to give legal status to the migrants. To a limited extent, migration ameliorated the health impact of the crisis by stimulating illicit cross-border trade and informal markets that increased some North Koreans' access to food. Even after a disastrous effort by the DPRK government to shut the markets down in 2009, they are re-emerging. China's encouragement of these markets, along with regularizing the status of migrants in China, could advance its own economic interests as well as contributing to improving the health of North Koreans.
  • Topic: Communism, Economics, Health, Markets, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: China, Israel, North Korea
  • Author: Thomas J. Christensen
  • Publication Date: 04-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Sino-U.S. cooperation should be based on the pursuit of mutual interests rather than on a framework of mutual respect for “core interests,” as pledged in the 2009 Joint Statement. There is a perception in Beijing that when China assists the United States with problems on the international stage it is doing the United States a favor, and thus it expects returns in kind. This is inaccurate since almost everything that the United States asks of China is directly in China's own interest. If the Six-Party Talks process fails permanently, many countries, including China and the United States, will suffer costs. The biggest losers will be the North Korean people, but second will be China, not the United States. The Chinese government has been increasingly sensitive to a domestic political environment of heated popular nationalism, expressed in the media and on the blogosphere. China suffers from a stunted version of a free press, in which most criticism of government policy is from a hawkish, nationalist direction. A cooperative U.S.-China relationship should be built around the pursuit of mutual global interests. The two countries have worked together successfully on several projects, including antipiracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, and there is potential for further cooperation on issues such as climate change, nuclear nonproliferation, and counterterrorism, to name a few.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Treaties and Agreements, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Beijing, North Korea
  • Author: Bates Gill
  • Publication Date: 07-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Over the course of 2010, China has taken a more conciliatory official approach toward recent North Korean provocations, putting it at odds with South Korea, Japan, and the United States. At least three factors shape China's interactions with North Korea: an increase in the number of actors with a perceived interest in shaping foreign policy decision-making, a deepening of opinion among Chinese elites on foreign policy matters, and an expansion in the forms and contents of expression in China. The primary strategic goal on which nearly all parties in China agree is stability. A policy has been developed that aims to achieve stability by emphasizing economic development in North Korea, better understanding the present and future North Korean political-military system, and developing a closer relationship with it. For the United States and its allies, these developments call for an even deeper understanding of internal debates and politics regarding foreign and security policy development and decision-making in China. These developments also demand an even more hard-nosed recognition of Chinese interests in North Korea and the kind of partner Beijing is—or is not—likely to be in supporting U.S. and allied priorities on the Korean peninsula.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: Japan, China, Israel, North Korea
  • Author: Drew Thompson, Carla Freeman
  • Publication Date: 05-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: On January 1, 2009, Chinese President Hu Jintao and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il exchanged greetings and declared 2009 the “year of China-DPRK friendship,” marking 60 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Despite pledges to deepen cooperation and promote exchanges, however, the New Year began with the China-North Korean border closed and pervasive uncertainty about Kim's health and the political stability of the DPRK. For Beijing, Pyongyang's behavior and renewed tensions between the two Koreas raise its concerns about the prospects for broader regional conflict. It also sees developments on the peninsula as they may affect its own territory should instability in the DPRK spill into Northeast China. It is Kim Jong Il's failure to reform the North Korean economy and take measures to institute a succession process to enhance political predictability in the country that are a source of anxiety both among senior leaders in Beijing and local leaders in areas along the DPRK border. Nowhere is the uncertainty about North Korea's future more acutely felt than in China's border region with North Korea, and there are few places where these concerns are closer to home than in Jilin Province's Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture. With more than 800,000 Chinese-Koreans and a 522 km long land border with North Korea, Yanbian is likely to bear the brunt of failures in China's policies toward its difficult neighbor.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North Korea
  • Author: John S. Park
  • Publication Date: 05-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Assessing regime stability in North Korea continues to be a major challenge for analysts. By examining how North Korea, Inc. — the web of state trading companies affiliated to the Korean Workers' Party (KWP), the Korean People's Army (KPA), and the Cabinet — operates, we can develop a new framework for gauging regime stability in North Korea. Insights into the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) regime can be gained by examining six core questions related to the DPRK state trading company system. First, what are DPRK state trading companies and how did they emerge? Second, how do DPRK state trading companies operate? Third, what roles do they play? Fourth, why are DPRK state trading companies important? Fifth, what major transformations are taking place in the DPRK state trading company system? Sixth, what are the implications of the manner in which this system is currently functioning?
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Communism, International Security, Governance
  • Political Geography: North Korea
  • Author: Scott Snyder, Bonnie Glaser, John S. Park
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: This report is based on discussions with Chinese specialists on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) during a visit to Beijing, Changchun, and Yanji, June 25-30, 2007.1 Discussions followed on a similar round of interviews conducted in April 2006. Several of our interlocutors recently returned from extended stays in Pyongyang and many others regularly visit the DPRK, commonly referred to as North Korea. Topics discussed included trends in North Korea's economy and prospects for reform; current trends in Sino-DPRK economic relations; China's policy toward North Korea in the wake of the nuclear test; Chinese debates on North Korea; Chinese assessments of North Korea's political stability; and potential Chinese responses to instability.
  • Topic: Economics, Nuclear Weapons, Regional Cooperation
  • Political Geography: China, Beijing, Asia, North Korea, Changchun
  • Author: Bonnie Glaser, Chietigj Bajpaee
  • Publication Date: 01-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: To better understand perspectives in the United States and China on internal developments in North Korea, the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in partnership with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, convened a daylong conference on December 5, 2006. The conference took place on the eve of the resumption of the Six-Party Talks in Beijing, which subsequently ended without tangible progress. The participants discussed North Korea's economy, the role of external actors on North Korea's decision-making, and Chinese and U.S. visions for the future of the Korean Peninsula. The seminar also included a simulation based on a scenario of an explosion at Yongbyon that creates a radioactive plume that moves across the Sea of Japan.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Asia, North Korea
  • Author: Sarah Dye
  • Publication Date: 03-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: During the mid-1990s, North Korea experienced a famine that killed millions of people, mostly in rural areas. Despite the severity of that famine and the ensuing deterioration of public health, the political leadership in North Korea has obstinately blocked the effective delivery of humanitarian aid to its citizens. On November 16, 2006, the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH) Task Force on Public Health and Conflict held its first symposium, which selected North Korea as a case study. The Task Force is committed to raising the profile of conflict analysis and resolution in the field of public health education through a year-long series of events. The speakers at this first symposium included Scott Snyder of the Asia Foundation; Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch; two South Korean physicians, Kim Jin-Yong and Lee Yun-Hwan; Courtland Robinson, a Johns Hopkins faculty member and researcher; and one North Korean refugee who addressed the symposium under a pseudonym. This USIPeace Briefing summarizes the symposium's discussion on public health and conflict in North Korea.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Security, Health, Humanitarian Aid
  • Political Geography: United States, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: David Albright, Paul Brannan
  • Publication Date: 10-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: During the February 2007 Six-Party Talks in Beijing, negotiators reached agreement on a series of actions aimed at starting the process of verifiably dismantling the nuclear weapons program of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). A key part of this agreement stipulated that after the DPRK shuts down its nuclear facilities, it would “disable” them. The February agreement did not state which facilities would be disabled or how they would be disabled, except to imply that these issues would be subject to further negotiations.
  • Topic: International Relations, Regional Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Beijing, North Korea, Korea
  • Author: Scott Snyder, Joel Wit
  • Publication Date: 02-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The second North Korean nuclear crisis, which climaxed with the test of a nuclear device on October 9, 2006, has influenced the views of Chinese specialists. By revealing the status of North Korean nuclear development, Pyongyang's nuclear test was a poke in the eye of Chinese leaders, who had tried privately and publicly to dissuade North Korean leaders from conducting a test. As a result, China has taken stronger measures to get Pyongyang's attention, including a temporary crackdown on North Korea's illicit financial activities. These changes spotlight an ongoing debate within the Chinese academic community over whether North Korea (DPRK) could become a strategic liability rather than a strategic asset. This debate centers on whether it is necessary to set aside China's loyalty to the current North Korean regime in order to maintain good U.S.-China relations and achieve China's objectives of developing its economy and consolidating its regional and global economic and political influence. Or is maintaining North Korea as a strategic buffer still critical to preserving China's influence on the Korean peninsula? An increasingly vocal minority of Chinese specialists is urging starkly tougher measures in response to North Korea's “brazen” act, including reining in the Kim Jong Il regime or promoting alternative leadership in Pyongyang. Although their sympathy and ideological identification with North Korea has waned, many Chinese policy analysts clearly prefer North Korea's peaceful reform to a U.S.- endorsed path of confrontation or regime change. China's policymakers have sought to forestall North Korean nuclear weapons development, but they continue to blame U.S. inflexibility for contributing to heightened regional tensions over North Korea's nuclear program. Chinese analysts fret that economic and political instability inside North Korea could negatively affect China itself. They have shown more concern about the North Korean regime's stability in recent months than at any time since the food crisis in the late 1990s. Chinese policymakers ask how to encourage North Korea's leaders to embark on economic reform without increasing political instability. Discussions with Chinese experts reveal considerable uncertainty about the future of North Korean reform. The possibilities of military confrontation on the Korean peninsula, involving the United States and either a violent regime change or destabilization through North Korea's failure to maintain political control, are equally threatening to China's fundamental objective of promoting regional stability. These prospects have increased following North Korea's nuclear test and the strong reaction from the international community, as shown by UN Security Council Resolution 1718. China's economic rise has given it new financial tools for promoting stability of weak states on its periphery. Expanded financial capacity to provide aid or new investment in North Korea might help it achieve political and economic stabilization. The Chinese might prefer to use the resumption of benefits temporarily withheld as a way of enhancing their leverage by reminding the North of its dependence on Beijing's largesse. Managing the ongoing six-party talks will pose an increasingly difficult diplomatic challenge for China. Chinese diplomats take credit for mediation and shuttle diplomacy, but their accomplishments thus far have been modest. Talks have been fairly useful in stabilizing the situation, but they have also revealed the limits of China's diplomatic influence on both the United States and North Korea. U.S. intransigence is as much an object of frustration to the Chinese as North Korean stubbornness. Chinese analysts clearly have given thought to potential consequences of regime instability. For example, the Chinese military's contingency plans for preventing the spillover of chaos into China and for seizing loose nukes and fissile material imply that Chinese forces would move into North Korean territory. Without effective coordination, simultaneous interventions in the event of unforeseen crisis inside North Korea could lead to direct military conflict among U.S., Chinese, and South Korean military forces. Rather than accept South Korean intervention backed by the United States as a prelude to reunification, Chinese analysts repeatedly emphasize that “the will of the North Korean people must be considered” in the event of instability. If intervention were necessary, China clearly would prefer insertion of an international peacekeeping force under UN auspices. Such a force would establish a representative government, which would then decide whether to negotiate reunification with South Korea.
  • Topic: International Relations, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Beijing, Asia, South Korea, North Korea, Korea
  • Author: Ralph A. Cossa, Scott Snyder, Brad Glosserman
  • Publication Date: 11-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The forthcoming resumption of Six-Party Talks to eliminate nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula is expected to build on the Joint Statement of principles released at the end of the last round on September 19, 2005. While some have criticized the vagueness of the Joint Statement, it represents the first tangible progress in identifying common principles and objectives in two years of sporadic meetings. If North Korea has indeed made a “strategic decision” to abandon its nuclear weapons programs – a thesis still to be tested – it may provide a basis for future progress. For this to occur, however, a more specific negotiating road map and implementing process must be developed. It is important to assess where the current guidelines might lead and to identify the "commitments for commitments" and "actions for actions" that might be envisioned as next steps.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security, Nuclear Weapons
  • Political Geography: Asia, North Korea