Corea del Norte

The Immensity of Seoul’s Sadness

In April 2014, South Koreans watched in horror as TV news showed live footage of a huge ferry tilting 50 to 60 degrees, sinking into the sea. Aboard were over 300 high school students on a school trip to Jeju Island, the country’s most popular resort. Initial reports said the students were all rescued, but it soon emerged that they were, in fact, still on the ship. The nation watched in real time — for two and a half hours — as the ship sank completely and disappeared from view. It would turn out that rescue efforts had been botched, and the captain and crew had escaped in lifeboats after telling the students and other passengers to stay put.…  Seguir leyendo »

A TV screen at the Seoul Railway Station in South Korea on Nov. 4 displays a file image of a missile launch that took place in North Korea. (Ahn Young-joon/AP)

In the international battle for power and influence, North Korea is moving ever closer to Russia and China — and abandoning what was once a desire for engagement with the United States. Pyongyang’s hardening position is one more sign of a global realignment taking place in the wake of the war in Ukraine.

As conflict rages in the heart of Europe, the world is dividing more sharply into East and West. The United States’ partnerships are stronger but so is the intensity of the adversarial camp. North Korea and Iran are supplying weapons to an embattled Russia, according to the White House.…  Seguir leyendo »

A television is seen in a ferry cabin with file footage of a North Korean missile test, in the waters off South Korea's island of Ulleungdo (top back), on Nov. 4. Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

North Korea set a new annual record for missile launches back in June, and it’s still going strong. This week, Pyongyang launched 23 missiles in a single day, setting a new daily record, and U.S. officials have indicated that it is ready to conduct a nuclear test at any time. Less noticed are developments in North Korean nuclear doctrine, which are even more consequential than the missile launches. Recent doctrinal changes increase the risk of inadvertent nuclear war and should prompt a rethink of current policies in both Seoul and Washington.

In September, North Korea updated a 2013 law setting out its nuclear weapons policies and announced that it would respond to attacks against its nuclear command and control systems by launching a nuclear strike “automatically and immediately”.…  Seguir leyendo »

A TV broadcast showing North Korea firing projectiles, Seoul, October 2019 Heo Ran / Reuters

Over the past few months, many Western analysts have been deeply concerned about the possibility that Russian President Vladimir Putin might deploy a tactical nuclear weapon in Ukraine. But Putin is not the only autocrat who could resort to weapons of mass destruction. Look no further than North Korea. In the past year, the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile, a train-mounted ballistic missile, a new surface-to-air defense missile system, a long-range strategic cruise missile, and multiple hypersonic missiles. And there are indications that North Korea is preparing its seventh nuclear test, possibly to showcase a more compact, next-generation tactical nuclear weapon.…  Seguir leyendo »

It’s Time to Accept That North Korea Has Nuclear Weapons

The 30-year U.S. effort to compel North Korea to give up its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons capabilities has rested on offering Pyongyang a simple choice: a relationship with the United States, or weapons and isolation.

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has made his choice. His government passed a law in September declaring the country a nuclear weapons state. Mr. Kim called that designation “irreversible” and ruled out further talks on denuclearization. The North has fired a dozen ballistic missiles in the past two months, is boasting of the ability to deploy tactical battlefield nuclear weapons and is expected to conduct another nuclear test — its seventh — perhaps as early as next week.…  Seguir leyendo »

Una nueva crisis geopolítica se agita en el contexto de la guerra en Ucrania, las tensiones por Taiwán y la agudización de la rivalidad sinoestadounidense. Corea del Norte, después de una pausa de tres años en sus provocaciones nucleares, se prepara para lo que según advierten las agencias de inteligencia puede ser una séptima prueba nuclear (tal vez antes de la elección intermedia del 8 de noviembre en los Estados Unidos).

Hace cinco años, el mundo enfrentó una perspectiva de «fuego y furia», cuando el dictador norcoreano Kim Jong‑un y el entonces presidente de los Estados Unidos Donald Trump intercambiaron amenazas de guerra nuclear.…  Seguir leyendo »

People watch a television broadcast showing a file image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Seoul railway station in Seoul on June 5. Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

In the time that I have been following events in East Asia, starting with more than a decade of coverage from bases in Japan and China beginning in the late 1990s, it has sometimes seemed like I have seen every permutation of possible diplomatic responses to the challenges that North Korea poses to the international system, including the development of weapons of mass destruction and the systems that deliver them.

There were frequent stretches during my years in Japan when I spent far more time in South Korea than at home in Tokyo. Much of that work was focused on the seesaw of events in North Korea ruled by the Kim dynasty.…  Seguir leyendo »

Kim Jong-un anunció un confinamiento nacional por un brote de covid el 12 de mayo. Era la primera vez que aparecía en televisión con mascarilla. Anthony Wallace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Durante dos años, la aislada Corea del Norte alegó haber tenido éxito en mantener alejada a la covid, e incluso rechazó varias ofertas de vacunas, a las que calificó de innecesarias. El mes pasado, eso cambió.

En una serie de notas urgentes, los medios estatales de Corea del Norte anunciaron que una fiebre no especificada se estaba propagando “explosivamente”. La nación comenzó un confinamiento. Se han reportado más de cuatro millones de casos y decenas de muertes.

Es un escenario aterrador para una nación de 25 millones de personas, con problemas de desnutrición y sin esquemas de vacunación. Pero las malas noticias no salen de Corea del Norte sin alguna razón.…  Seguir leyendo »

Kim Jong-un appeared in a face mask on television for the first time on May 12 to announce a nationwide Covid lockdown. Anthony Wallace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

For more than two years, isolated North Korea claimed success in keeping out Covid and even rebuffed multiple offers of vaccines, calling them unnecessary. Last month, that changed.

In a series of urgent dispatches, North Korea’s state media announced that an unspecified fever was spreading “explosively”. The nation went into lockdown. More than four million cases have been reported, with dozens of deaths.

It’s a frightening prospect for an unvaccinated, undernourished nation of 25 million people. But bad news does not escape North Korea without a reason. Finally acknowledging a viral outbreak may be part of a strategy by its leader, Kim Jong-un, to re-engage with the outside world.…  Seguir leyendo »

The empty streets near the Pyongyang Railway Station are seen as people stay away due to a lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Pyongyang, North Korea, on May 27. Kim Won Jin/AFP via Getty Images

As a COVID-19 wave engulfs North Korea, the question of reunification is moving to the fore. Tragically divided in the aftermath of World War II, the peninsula essentially suffered through a low-grade civil war in the decades since the Korean War ended.

Stitching together the two very different Koreas long looked improbable. However, North Korea is ill-prepared for a viral tsunami. Although it is premature to predict the Kim Jong Un dynasty’s doom, it would be foolish not to prepare for the possibility.

North Korea is one of only two countries that made no effort to vaccinate its people. (Eritrea, oft called the North Korea of Africa, is the other.)…  Seguir leyendo »

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walking near a reported intercontinental ballistic missile, North Korea, March 2022. Korean Central News Agency / Reuters

In the early months of 2022, as the world was transfixed by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un seemed to sense an opportunity. Since the invasion began, he has tested a slew of ballistic missiles, including hypersonic and long-range weapons, with relatively little international scrutiny. Kim’s objective is clear: he aims to develop weapons capable of overwhelming U.S. national missile defense systems. U.S. President Joe Biden’s national security team has been understandably preoccupied with Ukraine, but North Korea’s nuclear missile technology is rapidly advancing and demands urgent attention. Absent a change in U.S. strategy or an unexpected diplomatic breakthrough, Kim could eventually achieve his goal of being able to strike the United States with a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile, with grave implications for U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast of a military parade held in Pyongyang, North Korea, at a railway station in Seoul on April 26. Jung Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty Images

The United States has “high expectations for working with the Yoon administration on issues related to the Korean Peninsula”, the United States’ top envoy for North Korea stated while in Seoul last week. But those expectations may be misplaced, given that Washington appears unwilling to prioritize stabilization through a more flexible diplomatic strategy.

To be sure, Seoul is taking a similar line. South Korea’s incoming conservative president Yoon Suk-yeol has promised to be tough on North Korea. Pledging to “teach [North Korean leader Kim Jong Un] some manners”, the Yoon administration brings with it hopes of a more pliant North, in contrast with South Korea’s outgoing Moon Jae-in administration, which was more focused on dialogue and engagement.…  Seguir leyendo »

Kim Jong-Un ha logrado lo que mucha gente, yo incluida, creía imposible: ha durado 10 años enteros en el poder como líder totalitario de Corea del Norte, un anacrónico Estado comunista de otra época que, si nos guiamos por la historia, hace años que tendría que haberse derrumbado. Como cuando la Unión Soviética se derrumbó en 1991. O cuando el padre fundador de Corea del Norte, el abuelo de Kim Jong-un, murió en 1994. O tal vez cuando hasta dos millones de norcoreanos murieron como consecuencia de la devastadora hambruna de finales de la década de 1990. La muerte del segundo Kim en 2011 y la ascensión del tercer Kim, un milenial adiposo y poco cualificado, fue también otro punto de inflexión claro.…  Seguir leyendo »

Kim Jong Un in North Korea, March 2022 KCNA via Reuters

With the entire world focused on Ukraine, the coming weeks and months will present the perfect opportunity for rogue states to make trouble, knowing that the United States and other powers are distracted. Chief among such potential opportunists is North Korea, which could trigger the sleeper crisis of 2022. The Biden administration must be ready for a flare-up on the Korean Peninsula even as Russian President Vladimir Putin causes bloodshed and threatens nuclear war in Ukraine.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine will only redouble North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s determination to expand his nuclear arsenal. Kim knows that under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, Ukraine gave up the nuclear weapons it inherited from the Soviet Union, and he no doubt figures that if Ukraine were still a nuclear power, Russia would not have dared to attack.…  Seguir leyendo »

Kim Jong-un Is Just Getting Started

You could be forgiven for forgetting about North Korea, which went quiet for a stretch, locked in self-imposed isolation for two years during the pandemic while U.S. attention diverted to other crises (like the perilous fate of Ukraine).

Now there’s been a burst of ballistic missile tests in the new year: seven in January alone — an unprecedented pace for Pyongyang — and two in the past few weeks, prompting the U.N. Security Council to huddle for emergency meetings and drawing condemnation from some members.

If it seems as if North Korea wants us to sit up and pay attention — Don’t forget, we’re still building missiles and nuclear weapons!…  Seguir leyendo »

1. Cuando ya está escrutado más del 99 por ciento del electorado y con una participación de entorno al 77 por ciento del censo, parece que el partido conservador (PPP), con el candidato Yoon Suk Yeol, acaba de obtener hoy día 9 de marzo de 2022, una ajustada victoria sobre el candidato del Gobierno actual del partido demócrata (PD), Lee Jae Myung. Eso significa un giro a la derecha de la política surcoreana que ha sido pilotada en sus últimos cinco años, en un mandato de relativa estabilidad, por el social-demócrata presidente Moon Jae In.

El nuevo presidente electo es un antiguo fiscal general y ha conseguido atraer en el tramo final de la campaña a un tercer contrincante, Ahn Cheol Sool, cirujano y empresario de éxito, que se ha sumando a la candidatura del PPP.…  Seguir leyendo »

Official image released by North Korea state media on Friday Jan 28, 2022 shows leader Kim Jong Un inspects a missile munitions factory producing a major weapon system at an undisclosed location in North Korea. EyePress News / EyePress via AFP

At the turn of 2022, Pyongyang dramatically increased the pace of its missile testing, raising fears of renewed North Korean brinksmanship after an extended period of relative calm. That calm was a function, first, of a diplomatic process with the United States that played out during the last three years of U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration and, secondly, of the COVID-19 pandemic. But January saw seven separate testing events, more than during any single calendar month on record. On 5 and again on 11 January, Pyongyang tested what it claimed were hypersonic weapons. It then tested a pair of mobile short-range ballistic missiles – derived from Soviet technology acquired long ago –from a train on 14 January and two “tactical guided missiles” on 17 January.…  Seguir leyendo »

Chinese President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un take part in a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Jan. 8, 2019. Xinhua/Shen Hong via Getty Images

The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics were notable for the absence of Western politicians and officials, the result of a diplomatic boycott to protest China’s reprehensible treatment of Uyghurs, a Muslim minority group in its Xinjiang province. What the boycott ignores is that Beijing is complicit in North Korea’s horrific human rights abuses as well. Because the two countries’ abuses are inextricably linked, it is essential that U.S. North Korea policy focuses on China’s role in sustaining the crimes of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s family against the North Korean people.

For example, China is complicit in the fates of thousands of North Koreans who try to flee across the 882-mile border between the two countries each year.…  Seguir leyendo »

People watch a news broadcast with footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul on Jan. 30. (Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)

With the United States and NATO tangling with Russia over Ukraine, and China hosting the Winter Olympics in Beijing, North Korea may not be an immediate priority for any of the great powers. But, as the past few weeks have demonstrated, the North Korean nuisance will not take care of itself.

This January, North Korea conducted seven ballistic missile tests, the most recorded in a single month. We have seen these patterns before. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ “Beyond Parallel” database, in a one-month period beginning in late July 2019, North Korea also conducted seven short-range missile tests.…  Seguir leyendo »

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, speaks with military officials on Jan. 11 during an observation of what state media said was a hypersonic missile test-fire in North Korea. (AFP/KCNA via KNS) (Str)

Kim Jong Un seems determined to force the world to pay attention to North Korea in 2022 by shooting off new and more dangerous missiles. Dealing with the Kim regime is the last thing Biden administration officials want to do, but they really have no choice. The good news is that there might be a new and creative way to break the increasingly dangerous diplomatic logjam.

Already this month, Pyongyang has conducted three tests of a new ballistic missile that it claims has hypersonic capability — which, if true, would severely undermine the protection of U.S. and allied regional missile defenses.…  Seguir leyendo »