Powder keg in Pyongyang: How serious is the Korean crisis?

Video

Event Summary

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.
--Lara Crouch

Event Description

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.

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About the Author

 

Nicholas
Eberstadt
  • Nicholas Eberstadt, a political economist and a demographer by training, is also a senior adviser to the National Bureau of Asian Research, a member of the visiting committee at the Harvard School of Public Health, and a member of the Global Leadership Council at the World Economic Forum. He researches and writes extensively on economic development, foreign aid, global health, demographics, and poverty. He is the author of numerous monographs and articles on North and South Korea, East Asia, and countries of the former Soviet Union. His books range from The End of North Korea (AEI Press, 1999) to The Poverty of the Poverty Rate (AEI Press, 2008).

     

  • Phone: 202.862.5825
    Email: eberstadt@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Alex Coblin
    Phone: 202.419.5215
    Email: alex.coblin@aei.org

 

Thomas
Donnelly

 

Dan
Blumenthal
  • Dan Blumenthal is the director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on East Asian security issues and Sino-American relations.  Mr. Blumenthal has both served in and advised the U.S. government on China issues for over a decade.  From 2001 to 2004, he served as senior director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia at the Department of Defense.  Additionally, he served as a commissioner on the congressionally-mandated U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission since 2006-2012, and held the position of vice chairman in 2007.  He has also served on the Academic Advisory Board of the congressional U.S.-China Working Group. Mr. Blumenthal is the co-author of "An Awkward Embrace: The United States and China in the 21st Century" (AEI Press, November 2012).

  • Phone: 202.862.5861
    Email: dblumenthal@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Shannon Mann
    Phone: 202-862-5911
    Email: Shannon.Mann@aei.org

 

Michael
Mazza
  • Currently the program manager for AEI's annual Executive Program on National Security Policy and Strategy, Michael Mazza has studied and lived in China. At AEI, Mr. Mazza studies defense policy in the Asia-Pacific, as well as Chinese military modernization, cross-Strait relations, and security on the Korean peninsula. He also writes regularly for AEI's Center for Defense Studies blog. In his previous capacity as a research assistant in AEI's Foreign and Defense Policy Studies department, Mr. Mazza contributed to studies on American strategy in Asia and on Taiwanese defense strategy. He is a 2010-2011 Foreign Policy Initiative Future Leader.
  • Phone: 202-828-6027
    Email: michael.mazza@aei.org

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