Friday 27 Apr 2018 | 05:17 | SYDNEY
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North Korea

Why definitions will be crucial for North-South talks 

In just over a week, President of South Korea Moon Jae-in will sit with his northern counterpart, Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong-un, at Panmunjom, the historic site of the 1953 armistice, for the third instalment of the inter-Korean summit (to be broadcast live). The summit will occur

The peril of North Korea’s charm offensive

Since the first days of 2018, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has undertaken a series of diplomatic activities whose scope and significance are rivalled only by his missile and nuclear tests. The fact that Kim made his first overseas trip to China, attended a K-pop performance in Pyongyang,

Watching on: Australia and the Korean Peninsula talks

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are scheduled to meet for the first time on 27 April at Panmunjom, the “truce” village on the border of the two countries. The rapidly changing security environment on the Korean Peninsula has reached a critical juncture.

An agenda for the Moon–Kim summit

Later this month, South Korean President Moon Jae-in will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. This is the third inter-Korean summit since the days of the Sunshine Policy – an approach of open dialogue with North Korea from 1998 to 2008. That effort earned a Nobel Peace Prize, but previous

Trump, Kim, and the deal of the century

We still don’t know exactly when or where President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are going to meet, but Kim’s furtive visit to Beijing this week has heightened expectations that the summit will happen sometime in May. By the time the summit occurs, attention on this historic event

Hot take: what does Kim Jong-un’s trip to China mean?

So it’s now confirmed that Kim Jong-un went to China in the past few days to meet Xi Jinping. And apparently Xi will now go to Pyongyang. Breaking: Photos of secret talks between Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping emerge in the Chinese media https://t.co/kdnPKQixGq pic.twitter.com/G7tQh0Amd8 — Javier

US–North Korea summit: can Trump deliver?

An armoured train carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong-un pulled into Beijing on Monday, with a summit with China’s Xi Jinping confirmed Wednesday morning by Xinhua. Perhaps Kim came to reassure China that he won’t upend regional geopolitics by making a dramatic deal with

North Korea’s time-buying strategy

Now that the PyeongChang Winter Olympics is over, both South and North Korea can be satisfied with what they gained from the sporting event. South Korea’s Moon Jae-in administration scored a major diplomatic victory with the attendance of Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, at the&

Moon versus Abe and the contest for America’s ear

A battle is underway between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in over their differing approaches to North Korea. They are competing to shape the attitudes of US President Donald Trump, and this contest has been a compelling sideshow at the PyeongChang Winter

Olympic détente just another North Korean deceit

It is tempting to view North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympics as an olive branch, a step back from the edge of nuclear brinkmanship. That’s certainly how much of the media is choosing to see it. Of course, it helps that the North Korean “unification” team is accompanied by

Sanction busting, North Korea–style

A recent report from the UN sanctions committee suggests that North Korea has been able to generate an estimated US$200 million from illicit dealings in the past year. Coal is being exported to China, Malaysia, Russia, and Vietnam in violation of current sanctions, and weapons (and materials

Asia’s escalating missile race

If the Cold War was one long arms race, the modern era could be accurately described as an arms jog. Countries are defined less by how many nuclear warheads they have, and more by what they can do with them. This is particularly the case in Australia’s immediate region, where a

Joining the dots to Vancouver

Represented by Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Frances Adamson, Australia was one of 20 countries that participated in a conference last week on coordinating international approaches to North Korea. Co-hosted by Canada and the US, and held in Vancouver, the conference had

China’s agenda behind inter-Korean talks

The first two weeks of 2018 have seen a significant thaw in inter-Korean tensions. In the highest-level talks between North and South Korea since December 2015, Pyongyang agreed to send a delegation to the 2018 South Korean Winter Olympics. China welcomed the developments, which it considers, in its

Don’t assume North Korea is happy with the status quo

In an earlier Interpreter article I argued the need for policy makers in the US and elsewhere to consider not only the now well-rehearsed and well-founded risks of attempting to compel Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons, but also the often overlooked but equally well-founded risks of

North Korea probably does not seriously seek unification

After North Korea burnished its credentials last year as a nuclear-armed state, there's been much discussion about what Pyongyang aims to do with its nuclear missiles. The panic in the western media has been palpable. But so is the contrast with the South Korean media's more sanguine response. I

An emerging role for the UN in the North Korean crisis

Last month, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman visited North Korean officials to promote a political solution to heightened tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear program. Feltman's mission has not received the attention it should have. The visit was the first

China and North Korea: Following the paper trail

Bill Gertz, senior editor of The Washington Free Beacon, specialises in scoops. But even by his high standards, his 2 January story that states a ‘(s)ecret Chinese Communist Party document reveals covert support to North Korea, including missiles, increased aid’ was a major coup. If true,

Clear messages required in Twitter-age of diplomacy

Robert Ayson is quite right to pick me up on the distinction between pre-emptive and preventative military strikes. My post on Australia’s policy towards a US attack on North Korea argued Australia should make clear that it would not support a pre-emptive US strike at the North’s nuclear and

What should Australia rule out on North Korea?

In place of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's ambiguous commitment to support US military action against North Korea, Hugh White wants a clear statement ruling out Australia's participation in a 'pre-emptive' attack. But in turn there are two points of ambiguity in White's argument that may get in

How Australia can help avoid a disastrous Korean war

Pyongyang’s latest long-range missile test raises the probability that Washington will decide to launch a pre-emptive military campaign against North Korea, simply because it will come to see this as the only alternative to accepting that North Korea will soon be

The Korean Peninsula’s year in review

This has been a rollercoaster year for the Korean Peninsula. The South Koreans impeached their president. The North Koreans tested dozens of rockets, including intercontinental ballistic missiles. The US President repeatedly threatened war, possible nuclear war, against the North. And some

Echoes of Saddam at Kim Jong Nam assassination trial

The trial of the two young women accused of murdering North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s half-brother Kim Jong Nam in Malaysia is now in its first month. Already it has provided some glimpses into how the deed might have been done and over the coming months more revelations can be

Cyber crime: North Korea’s billion-dollar soft spot

Cyber-crime is now a billion-dollar industry for North Korea. Cracking down on this criminal enterprise presents a strategic opportunity to apply further pressure on the Kim Jong-un regime. Hard currency generated from cyber-crime is undermining global efforts to impose economic pressure on

North Korea’s space program aims higher

Earlier this week, North Korea reaffirmed that its space program is ongoing and getting more ambitious. There have been six North Korean satellite launch attempts since 1998. Only two have placed satellites in orbit, and both satellites failed to transmit. Clearly, there is room for improvement, so

North Korea: How to start a nuclear war without even trying

If effective strategy requires realistic aims, then America is in trouble. US officials have shown themselves to be pathologically overconfident in their ability to achieve political outcomes with military signals, and the outcome they’re trying to achieve is utterly unrealistic.   Imagine

Reading between the lines of North Korea’s letter

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the DPRK Supreme People's Assembly has been busy sending open letters to various foreign parliaments. Our letter seems specifically tailored, as the DPRK web-based news includes parts of the other letters that aren't included in the one sent to Australia. It seems we

War on the Korean Peninsula: Targeting a better peace

The rhetoric emanating from Washington and Pyongyang may soon reach the point at which a peaceful resolution is no longer be possible. A year ago the chance of war on the Korean Peninsula would have been considered remote. Now, the call for a US pre-emptive strike is gaining support while North

What drives Russia’s Korea policy?

To discuss what's driving Russia's Korea policy, we need a framework within which we can begin to understand Moscow’s motives regarding North Korea’s nuclearisation and the ensuing international crisis.   First, peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and more broadly in

A modest proposal for Australian engagement in North Korea

I have a modest proposal to make for Australia to directly engage with North Korea. Australia maintains diplomatic relations with North Korea, but has no representation in Pyongyang. Instead, Australia's embassy in Seoul is cross-accredited, a common arrangement among countries that lack an

On North Korea, China’s interests are unchanged

China's recent move to close North Korean businesses operating in China is undoubtedly welcome news to Australian and US policymakers. However, this is should not be seen as a shift in China's approach to North Korea. Rather, it is a tactical manoeuvre – China's goals and interests regarding

North Korea’s underground N testing reaching a limit

A test of a North Korean thermonuclear weapon (or H-Bomb) over the Pacific Ocean is horrifying proposition. Apart from the serious strategic implications, the physical blast and electromagnetic effects of such a detonation would be catastrophic. If such a test occurred without warning, planes

Don’t discount the chances of a new Korean war

Robert Kelly all but discounts the possibility of conflict on the Korean Peninsula. While this is plainly wrong, he is right on other points, namely the emotional differences between South Korea and America in how they react to the North Korean threat.   The American press does inflate

North Korea: Trump’s terrible binary choice

It is critical that we understand what North Korea’s test of a thermonuclear device means. North Korea claims that the weapon is miniaturised to fit onto a Hwasong­–14 intercontinental ballistic missile. We must assume this claim is true. North Korea’s advances have exceeded every expectation

North Korean nuclear crisis: Talks still the best option

North Korea has just carried out its sixth nuclear test, claimed to be of a hydrogen bomb suitable for fitting on a missile capable of reaching the United States. At this stage there is insufficient information to determine whether it was a true hydrogen (fusion) weapon or a less-technically

What is gained by shooting missiles across Japan?

On Tuesday morning, North Korean launched a missile over the southern tip of Hokkaido in northern Japan. Given the close interdependence of North Korea’s satellite launch program and its missile development, the latest launch invokes memories of August 1998, when the North Korean Kwangmyŏngsŏ

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