ASPI Tracks Heightened Tensions in the Korean Peninsula

Media Roundup

Since taking office, President Donald Trump's most pressing international security challenge has been the acceleration of the North Korean nuclear program. In April 2017 alone, North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un showcased the advances in its missile technology during an ostentatious military parade and conducted two missile tests on April 16 and April 28. Though both missile tests failed, they raised concerns in the United States and across the Asia-Pacific region about North Korea's growing capabilities and aggression. 

The Trump Administration has responded with tough talk of its own, with Vice President Mike Pence declaring during a visit to South Korea that "the era of strategic patience" toward North Korea is over. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has indicated that all options are on the table, emphasizing more than past U.S. administrations that, if necessary, the United States would consider taking military action to stop the North's nuclear program. This has alarmed countries in the region, especially South Korea and Japan, about an impending crisis on the Korean Peninsula. 

South Korean elections on May 9 have added additional complexity to the picture. New leader President Moon Jae-in has called for diplomatic talks with the North at a time when the United States and others want to step up pressure on Kim Jong-un. This could make it difficult for the international community to reach consensus on how to deal with North Korea. 

On July 4, North Korea successfully carried out an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test for the first time, putting parts of the United States potentially within its nuclear range. The missile test took place just before the G20 meeting in Germany, with the United States and China still at loggerheads about how to deal with the North Korean nuclear challenge.   

As these developments occurred in real time, Asia Society Policy Institute staff, including President Kevin Rudd, Diplomat in Residence and Senior Fellow Daniel Russel, and Director of Asian Security Lindsey Ford provided analysis on the real dangers of the North Korean nuclear program, the policy options available to President Trump and China, and what the implications of a full-blown crisis on the Korean Peninsula would be for the United States and the region. See their contributions below.

(The below compilation was updated on January 5, 2018.)

How the Winter Olympics are Shaping Diplomacy with North Korea

Daniel Russel writes in Axios about South Korea's willingness to engage in Olympic diplomacy with Kim Jong Un.

2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang

What's the Latest on North Korea? Three Key Questions

On January 4, 2018, Lindsey Ford answers questions about North Korea's diplomatic relations with the United States, South Korea, and China in 2018. 

Kim Jong Un delivers a New Year's Speech.

The North Korea Nuclear Problem

Kevin Rudd's speech at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy in Seoul on December 11, 2017 on the issue of North Korea's nuclear program. 

KRudd North Korea Speech Seoul

North Korea Completes Its State Nuclear Force: What's Next?

On November 30, 2017, ASPI's Lindsey Ford and other experts weigh in on how the U.S. will respond to North Korea's quickly advancing nuclear program.

Kim Jong Un watches a rocket launch

Asia Inside Out Podcast: Keeping Up With the Kims

In this inaugural episode of Asia Inside Out, Asia Society Policy Institute's Lindsey Ford asks experts Rob York and Jean Lee to dig into North Korea's  mysterious, dynastic family.

Trump Solidifies Ties with South Korea

Lindsey Ford speaks to MSNBC on November 7 about how President Trump’s visit to South Korea marks a critical moment in the U.S.-ROK alliance.

President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visit South Korea on November 7, 2017. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks / Flickr)

Kim Jong Un Distrusts China, Wants 'Friendly' Ties With U.S., Says High Level Defector

At an event at Asia Society New York on October 16, Ri Jong Ho a former senior North Korean economic official who has defected, discusses Kim Jong Un’s calculations, behavior, and worldview with Daniel Russel. (1 hr., 20 min.)

U.S. Sending Mixed Messages on North Korea

On September 26, appearing on MSNBC, Lindsey Ford discusses North Korea’s threats to the United States and the mixed messages in the U.S. government response.

North Korea Puts Xi Jinping Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Lindsey Ford sits down with MSNBC on September 15 to talk about the impact of North Korea’s latest missile test, which was launched over Japan, on China and the region.

5-Steps to a 'Grand Bargain' with China on North Korea

On CNBC's "Squawk Box" on September 6, Kevin Rudd provides insight into North Korea's goals, U.S. options on North Korea, and China's role in a "grand bargain."

North Korea Does Not Want to Initiate Conflict

In an interview with MSNBC on September 6, Lindsey Ford says that Kim Jong Un isn’t “begging for war” but trying to deter an attack by the United States.

Chances of Second Korean War Between 20 and 25 Percent

In an op-ed for The Sydney Morning Herald on September 6, Kevin Rudd writes that a second Korean War has now become an increasing possibility.

Kim Jong-un Seeking Nuclear Deterrent, Not War

Lindsey Ford tells MSNBC’s Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle on September 5, that in spite of its highly provocative recent nuclear and missile tests, North Korea is not “begging for war.”

Implications of North Korea's Sixth Nuclear Test 

Daniel Russel speaks to BBC Radio 4 on September 4, about how the UN Security Council will respond after North Korea's latest nuclear test. 

Now is Not the Time for U.S.-South Korea Trade Tensions

In this August 31 op-ed for The Hill, Wendy Cutler outlines how to get the U.S.-South Korea trade relationship back on track in the midst of threatening missile tests by North Korea.

The North Korean Nuclear Dilemma: Is Asia Heading Towards Armed Conflict?

On August 31, Kevin Rudd delivers a speech on the North Korea nuclear crisis to the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, providing an overview of North Korean, Chinese, and American interests and perceptions, as well as the possible scenarios going forward.

Can Trump's 'Strategic Unpredictability' Change North Korea's Behavior?

On August 12, Kevin Rudd talks to Fareed Zakaria about whether Trump's "strategic unpredictability" will be effective against North Korea.

How to Defuse the North Korean Crisis

In an August 11, 2017 CNBC interview, Kevin Rudd outlines what a diplomatic "grand bargain" on North Korea could look like. 

Unfilled State Department Jobs Could Hamper North Korea Solutions

As the rhetoric between the Trump administration and North Korea escalates, Daniel Russel told NPR's "Weekend Update" that many of the important diplomatic positions that deal with East Asia lie empty at the State Department.

The North Korea Crisis — What's Next?

In this August 11, 2017 AsiaBlog post, ASPI staff and experts discuss why negotiating with China may be the only viable option for the United States when it comes to North Korea.

Creative Diplomacy is Vital to Defuse Korean Crisis

In an op-ed for the Financial Times on August 10, 2017, ASPI President Kevin Rudd writes that that the international community might be sleepwalking into war on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea Under Pressure After UN Approves New Sanctions

On August 7, Daniel Russel tells BBC Radio 4 that new UN sanctions against North Korea were a "significant advance" that will slow the progress of the North Korean nuclear program. 

U.S. may Launch New Sanctions against Chinese Firms

On CNN on August 1, 2017, Kevin Rudd predicts that the United States is likely to implement secondary sanctions against Chinese firms over North Korea and that the move would likely strain bilateral ties further.

U.S. Military Action against North Korea 'on the Table'

In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Network’s ”7.30” program on July 6, 2017, Kevin Rudd describes how the U.S. approach to North Korea has changed in the aftermath of its first successful intercontinental ballistic missile test. (6 mins. 54 secs.)

U.S. Must Act in Tandem with Allies on Korean Peninsula

On July 6, 2017, ASPI's Daniel Russel tells BBC Radio that the United States must work with other key nations at the G20 summit to manage North Korea's nuclear provocations. (4 min., 46 sec.)

How North Korea's Rocket Test Changed Geopolitics

Kevin Rudd discusses how North Korea's escalating threats have changed the region's dynamics on "Bloomberg Markets" on July 5, 2017. (2 min., 37 sec.)

China Sees ‘Hardening’ in U.S. Approach to North Korea

On July 5, 2017, Kevin Rudd describes growing tensions between the U.S. and China after North Korea's successful ICBM test on Fox News Radio. (7 min., 3 sec.)

North Korea Approaches U.S. 'Red Line’ with ICBM Test

Soon after North Korea's first successful ICBM test on July 4, 2017, Lindsey Ford explains on MSNBC why North Korea's pursuit of an ICBM is a core security challenge for the United States. (5 min., 1 sec.)

Crisis on the Peninsula: Implications for the U.S.-Korea Alliance 

At an event at Asia Society New York on June 19, Daniel Russel, Ro-Myung Gong, Chung-in Moon, Sue Mi Terry, and Barbara Demick discuss what the future holds for the U.S.-Korea alliance, the Korean Peninsula, and the security of Northeast Asia. ( 1 hr., 25 min.)

Chinese Oil Key Point of Strategic Leverage Against North Korea

On May 14, 2017, Kevin Rudd speaks to Fox News about North Korea's latest ballistic missile test, how to pressure Kim Jong-un, and whether a missile defense system in the Western United States was a solution to the problem. (4 min., 53 sec.)

North Korea a Shared Strategic Concern for the U.S. and Australia

Kevin Rudd tells CNBC's Squawk Box on May 4 that Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will find a way to work together on challenges like North Korea. (4 min., 39 sec.)

Turnbull and Trump to Focus on North Korea

On MSNBC on May 4, Kevin Rudd discusses the long-standing U.S.-Australia alliance and the common challenge both countries face from North Korea. (4 min., 2 sec.)

With South Korean Elections Approaching, North May Behave Badly Again

After another failed North Korean missile test and with elections imminent in South Korea, Kevin Rudd discusses Donald Trump's North Korea strategy with the BBC on May 1. (4 min., 34 sec.)

Kevin Rudd on Trump's North Korea Strategy - BBC News

Kevin Rudd discussed Donald Trump's strategy on North Korea with BBC News over the weekend.

Posted by Asia Society Policy Institute on Monday, May 1, 2017

North Korea: Keep Cool and Carry on? 

On CNBC's "Squawk Box" on May 1, Kevin Rudd warns politicians against engaging in any "incidents" in North Korea that could have harsh consequences. (2 min., 41. sec.)

Diplomatic Solution Still Possible on Korean Peninsula

On the BBC's Briefing Room podcast on April 27, Daniel Russel argues that it would be a mistake to think that war with North Korea is inevitable or that a diplomatic solution isn't possible. (28 min, 9 sec.)

Chinese Leverage Key to U.S. North Korea Policy

On April 23, Kevin Rudd explains to CNN Today that the international community must use Chinese leverage to change North Korea's nuclear behavior. (7 min, 46 sec.)

Trump's North Korea Policy Not New or Different Thus Far

Lindsey Ford lays out Donald Trump's North Korea strategy and options for MSNBC's Ali Velshi. (7 min., 8 sec.)

The Risks and Rewards of President Trump's North Korea Strategy

In an explainer interview on Asia Blog, Lindsey Ford discusses how the U.S. and China might resolve the current crisis in North Korea.

U.S. Needs a New Combined Diplomacy with China on North Korea

In a CNN interview on April 15, Kevin Rudd addresses North Korea’s military parade and what it means for U.S.-North Korea tensions. (7 min., 28 sec.)

Focus on North Korea's Capabilities, Not Its Military Parade

On Fox's "America's News HQ" on April 15, Kevin Rudd argues that the United States should ignore North Korea's bluster and focus on working with China for a solution in the Korean peninsula. (8 min., 11 sec.)

Kim Jong-un is 'Determined to Have a Nuclear Capability'

On WNYC's "The Takeaway" on April 13, Lindsey Ford discusses North Korea's determination to obtain a nuclear weapon and the challenges Japan, South Korea, and the United States face in constraining it. (7 min.)

ASPI Reports