For decades, North Korea’s provocative behavior and pursuit of nuclear weapons have threatened peace and stability in Northeast Asia. Various strategies to address the problem have delayed, but not ended, North Korea’s nuclear program. In the face of international condemnation, North Korea’s insistence on keeping its nuclear weapons has led to a diplomatic stalemate and the need for creative solutions to prevent a crisis. The U.S. Institute of Peace has supported efforts to strengthen peace and stability and prevent crisis on the Korean Peninsula. USIP collaborates with U.S. and regional experts, government officials, and diplomats to lead dialogues and conduct research exploring strategies for enhancing diplomacy, avoiding conflict, and managing crises related to North Korea.
Learn more in USIP’s fact sheet on The Current Situation in North Korea.
More than one in five North Koreans have cell phones, and increasingly rely on them to conduct financial transactions. Many of these transactions involve trading cell phone airtime, or “phone money,” for goods and services, and even for offering bribes. This report examines the potential for airtime trading to evolve into a formal mobile money system, which could enhance market activity and stability while providing opportunities for the country to engage with the international community.
A little over a year ago, U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s third meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was making headlines as much for its historic nature—it was the first time that a sitting U.S. president had set foot in North Korea—as for what it represented about the lack of progress in U.S.-North Korea relations. The next U.S. administration, whether it is led by Trump or former Vice President Joseph Biden, will face a more emboldened regime in Pyongyang and, according to experts, must rethink past failed strategies for dealing with this challenge.
To help U.S. policymakers better manage the myriad risks they face on the Korean Peninsula, this report assesses whether and how to pursue national security diplomacy with North Korea. This concept of engagement responds to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 regarding the benefits and risks for US national security. Persistent engagement with North Korea’s national security elites, the report argues, is a policy wager with a large potential upside and very little cost and risk.