As John Kerry's first trip to Asia as secretary of state comes to a close, a panel of experts gathered at AEI to discuss the volatile situation on the Korean Peninsula. AEI's Nicholas Eberstadt and Bruce Klingner of the Heritage Foundation highlighted the dynamics in North Korea and South Korea, respectively, that the US should take into account in managing current tensions.
Eberstadt focused on the palace politics within North Korea and urged US leaders to avoid negotiations that would legitimize the regime and allow Kim Jong-un to save face. Klingner explained how this crisis might be different for South Korea, outlining a variety of reasons why the country is more likely than it was in the past to respond militarily to the North.
The other three panelists offered several options for next steps. Dan Blumenthal of AEI suggested labeling North Korea as a "primary money laundering concern," as the George W. Bush administration did in the early 2000s. Not only would this help the US squeeze the North Korean government financially, but it would also have the added benefit of providing incentives for China to be more cooperative on this issue.
Abe Denmark of the National Bureau of Asian Research emphasized close coordination with US allies —South Korea in particular — to maintain a united front in response to North Korea. Finally, AEI's Thomas Donnelly stressed that while America's policy toward North Korea will be reactive by default, the US reacts in ways unforeseeable to North Korea.
Over the past several weeks, North Korea has voided the Korean War Armistice Agreement, threatened the United States with nuclear attack, warned foreigners to leave the Korean Peninsula, and launched a cyber attack on South Korean banks and broadcasters. With tensions at their highest in years, the Obama administration has vacillated in its response to Kim Jong-un’s bluster, on the one hand relying on shows of force to deter the North and reassure US allies, while on the other professing a possibly conflicting desire to pursue de-escalation.
What are the internal political dynamics in Pyongyang? How likely is North Korea to carry out an armed provocation, and what are the prospects for war? Is American strategy properly tailored to deal with the challenge of a nuclear North Korea? Join us for a panel discussion of these and other important questions.
If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.