GIS Dossier: The North Korean opening
President Donald Trump’s surprising decision to hold summit talks with Kim Jong-un has triggered a round of high-stakes diplomacy, including repeat meetings between North and South Korean officials and a lightning visit by Mr. Kim to Beijing. There is nothing accidental about Pyongyang’s charm offensive. It is the moment the North Korean leader has been preparing for years.
Trump-Kim meeting marginalizes China
For years, China has had a contradictory policy on North Korea. On one hand, it condoned Pyongyang's nuclear program, while on the other it tried to broker talks to shut it down. Now, with U.S. President Donald Trump accepting an invitation from Kim Jong-un to meet and discuss denuclearization, China has been sidelined. It will still hold plenty of economic sway over its neighbor, but its grip on Pyongyang is clearly weakening.
The ‘neutralization option’ in North Korea
The possibility of the United States launching a preemptive attack against North Korea’s nuclear missile program appears to have receded with Pyongyang’s recent peace overtures, but the two are connected. The conventional wisdom holds that such a strike, dubbed a “bloody nose,” is unthinkable. But that ignores the long history of U.S.-South Korean planning for war against North Korea, the extensive intelligence collected on the North’s conventional and nuclear forces, and the overwhelming U.S. military advantage.
How North Korea’s neighbors are quietly stepping up
The threat posed to international security by North Korea’s nuclear posturing will not be resolved in a flashy manner – neither by an American military strike at Pyongyang’s arsenal nor by Chinese economic pressure on its rogue ally. Instead, expect three Far East nations – China, Japan and South Korea – to quietly adopt a “managed crisis” approach, combining painstaking diplomacy with small-step measures to build stability.
The Friendship Bridge misnomer
China and North Korea have long ceased being true friends and allies. Beijing, just as Washington, is at a loss for how to stop the North Korean leader’s nuclear brinkmanship. The Chinese government wants the country to be seen abroad as a great new power, equal to the U.S. in dealing with the Korean Peninsula issue. But the reality is harsh. Over seven decades, the only policy tool that China has finessed to calm Pyongyang is paying money to the Kim family. In return, Pyongyang insults Beijing whenever its leader gets in a fit, and it embarrasses China abroad. No money means no talk.
2018 Global Outlook: Nuclear proliferation threat is exaggerated
The world’s existing nuclear powers are wary of proliferation, even if prospects for nuclear arms control appear to be dim. The United States, Russia, China and smaller states in possession of such arms are, at most, modernizing their arsenals. North Korea and possibly Iran cannot be prevented from developing nuclear warheads and delivery systems, but the emerging Western containment strategy is likely to work.
2018 Global Outlook: North Korea and the U.S.-China-Russia triangle
Tensions between the United States and North Korea are having a big impact on the relationship between Moscow, Beijing and Washington. China has every incentive, but few options, to rein in its neighbor, while pressure on the U.S. to escalate increases. Russia is playing a double game by which a conflict in Northeast Asia could help it attain its goals in Ukraine. Any major shock to today’s delicate balance could have drastic consequences.
U.S. missile defense tries to keep ahead of North Korea and Iran
The U.S. strategic missile defense program tends to speed up under Republican presidents and slow down under Democrats. This trend seems to be holding as the Trump administration puts renewed emphasis on missile defense as a cornerstone of its military strategy. Amid threats from North Korea, look for Washington to prioritize defending the homeland against nuclear missiles.
Japan’s growing nuclear dilemma
The security environment in East Asia is becoming increasingly unstable, with China rising, North Korea threatening nuclear war and the U.S. seemingly less willing to support allies. Japan is in a difficult predicament, with a constitution curtailing its military abilities and a public strongly against nuclear weapons. But the government wants to abolish those limits, and popular opinion might change once the nuclear arms race in East Asia accelerates.
The contours of a future Middle East emerge
Events are moving fast in the Middle East. The hoped-for rapprochement between Russia and the U.S. that could bring an end to the war in Syria appears to have collapsed. Growing tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia could spark a war at any moment. But the most explosive issue for this region of minorities is the prospect of independence for Iraqi Kurdistan.