2018 Global Outlook: North Korea and the U.S.-China-Russia triangle

Kim Jong-un and other North Korean leaders watch a missile test in November 2017
Kim Jong-un observes the test-fire of the country’s Hwasong-15 long-range ballistic missile. Another missile test could put pressure on the U.S. to take action (source: dpa)
  • Tensions in Korea are straining Beijing-Moscow-Washington relations
  • An unexpected shock could set the big three nuclear powers against each other
  • This situation lays bare Europe’s inherent weakness

The increasingly bellicose standoff between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is sending shock waves throughout the global security system. The ultimate danger is that the confrontation will be pushed to the point of a nuclear conflict. While this risk must still be considered small, the brinkmanship is already causing considerable collateral damage, playing into the triangular relationship between the three superpowers that was a defining feature of the Cold War. The baseline scenario for 2018 is that developments will follow a trajectory defined by three well-established features. Deviations will result only from substantial shocks.

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