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.
After North Korea’s planned economy faltered in the 1990’s, resulting in a devastating famine known as the “Arduous March,” citizens turned to an informal market system for survival. Desperate for some semblance of stability, the North Korean state initially tolerated these rudimentary transactions as a financial necessity. These markets have grown in scale and complexity over the last two decades—and in the process, have facilitated the growth of unofficial economic networks that exhibit signs of a nascent semi-autonomous public sphere that is unprecedented in North Korean society.
North Korea serves as a mutually beneficial partner for many African governments. Although these ties are often viewed solely through the lens of economic and security interests, this report shows Pyongyang's deep historical connections and ideological linkages with several of the continent’s nations. North Korea–Africa relations are also bolstered by China, which has been complicit in North Korea’s arms and ivory trade, activities providing funds that likely support the Kim regime’s nuclear ambitions and allow it to withstand international sanctions.
Weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to dramatically upgrade his nuclear arsenal, the Biden administration is reviewing U.S. policy on North Korea. A reality check is overdue. The Trump administration’s headline-grabbing threats and summits were just new packaging for the decades-old approach of expecting Beijing’s help to pressure Pyongyang to surrender its nuclear program. This failed again, and North Korea’s threatening capabilities grew. The Biden administration should—and can—establish a more pragmatic, realistic policy to urgently counter this threat, shore up stability, avoid war and advance a deeper, longer game of fundamental change in North Korea.