Nuclear North Korea: How Worried Should We Be?


In collaboration with the Asia Society Policy Institute

Nuclear North Korea

North Korea, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, has increasingly conducted short-range missile launches since Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un took power in late 2011. South Korea and its capital city Seoul are well within striking distance of the North’s weapons, and the two countries never signed a formal peace treaty to resolve the Korean War. North Korea is coming also close to mastering warhead technology and possessing intercontinental ballistic missiles which could reach the west coast of the United States. There are internal pressures as well, namely Kim Jong-un’s consolidation of power, elimination of enemies of the state, and the regional and foreign policy of a new president in South Korea.

In an era of geopolitical flux and rising tensions, North Korea’s intentions and its future plans are among the concerns of security analysts across the globe. Kim Jong-un has conducted more missile tests in his six years of power than both his grandfather and father combined, including two missiles which in theory could have reached U.S. territory if they were fired on a flatter trajectory. What is the international community doing to avert possible conflict in Korea? How effective have sanctions been? What are other tools being used to promote stability and cooperation on the peninsula? Join Asia Society for a high-level discussion with experts in the global security field.


6:00 pm | Reception
7:00 pm | Program

About the Speakers

Daniel Russel is currently serving as Diplomat in Residence and Senior Fellow at the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI). He is a career member of the U.S. Senior Foreign Service, and most recently served as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Previously, he served at the White House as Special Assistant to the President and National Security Council Senior Director for Asian Affairs. Russel helped formulate President Obama’s strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region, including efforts to strengthen alliances, deepen U.S. engagement with multilateral organizations, and expand cooperation with emerging powers in the region. Prior to joining the NSC in January of 2009, Russel served as Director of the Office of Japanese Affairs and had assignments as U.S. Consul General in Osaka-Kobe, Japan (2005-2008); Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in The Hague, Netherlands (2002-2005); Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Nicosia, Cyprus (1999-2002); Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering (1997-99); Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (1995-96); Political Section Unit Chief at U.S. Embassy Seoul, Republic of Korea (1992-95); Political Advisor to the Permanent Representative to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, Ambassador Pickering (1989-92); Vice Consul in Osaka and Branch Office Manager in Nagoya, Japan (1987-89); and Assistant to the Ambassador to Japan, former Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (1985-87).

Colonel William R. McKinney (USA, Ret.) had a distinguished Army career spanning 30 years and a 20-year civilian career during which he established himself as a national security expert on Northeast Asia with a focus on the Korean peninsula. From 2011 to 2016, he was a GS-15 civil servant at HQ, U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) in Honolulu, where he was director of the DPRK Strategic Focus Group, a mini-think tank for commander, USPACOM, providing strategic assessment and synchronization of U.S. policy toward North Korea (the DPRK). Later he served as senior country director for Korea. From 2008 to 2011, as a senior military analyst with Cubic Applications, Inc., he supported the OPCON Transition Support Team of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK). From 2005 at USPACOM, he provided analytic support for the Standing Joint Forces Headquarters and strategic assessments for the Strategy, Plans and Policy Directorate. From 2001 to 2005, he served as one of the U.S. representatives for the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), where he represented KEDO in North Korea and was charged with conducting negotiations with DPRK counterparts, providing consular protection functions for KEDO workers and visitors in North Korea, and exercising general oversight for the Light Water Reactor Project. Colonel McKinney capped his 30-year military career, which included 15 years in Korea, as defense and army attaché at the U.S. embassy in Seoul from 1990 to 1996. Prior to this, he served as chief of the U.S. Military Liaison Office to the Korean Defense Ministry; as chief of the Far East Branch in the Political-Military Division of Army Headquarters at the Pentagon; and as the political-military adviser to the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs at the State Department. He holds an M.A. in political science from the University of Colorado and a B.S. from the U.S. Military Academy. He also graduated from the U.S. Army War College and Korean Army Staff College.

About the Moderator

Chris Tomlinson is a Business Columnist with the Houston Chronicle, where he has written commentary on business, energy, and economics since 2014. Before joining the Chronicle, he spent 20 years with The Associated Press reporting on politics, conflicts, and economics from more than 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. He is also the author of the New York Times bestseller Tomlinson Hill, and he produced the award-winning documentary film by the same name. Both examine the history and consequences of race, politics, and economics in Texas.

Asia Society Texas Center Business & Policy Programs, Endowed by

Huffington Foundation

Bank of America, Muffet Blake, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, United Airlines, and Vinson & Elkins LLP are presenting sponsors of Business and Policy programs, with lead support from Nancy C. Allen, BP America, Nancy T. Chang, Anne and Albert Chao, Eagle Global Advisors, and Wells Fargo. Generous funding also provided by the Friends of Asia Society Texas Center, a premier group of individuals and organizations committed to bringing the best in public programming. 

Presenting Sponsors

Presenting Partner

Promotional Partner and Reception Contributor

Event Details

Wed 08 Nov 2017
6:00 PM - 8:15 PM

1370 Southmore Blvd Houston, Texas 77004

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$10 Members, $20 Nonmembers. All sales final.
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