Scenarios for the stalemate over North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un waves to crowds in Pyongyang
Under all likely scenarios, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will keep his nuclear weapons program. The question is how much further he will escalate tensions (source: dpa)
  • Conciliatory gestures by South Korea’s new president have not changed North Korea’s behavior
  • The countries with a direct stake in the conflict all have seemingly irreconcilable differences
  • The unique North Korean system makes it difficult to predict its next moves
  • None of the possible scenarios seem likely to end Pyongyang’s nuclear program

A little more than a month after the inauguration of South Korea’s new President Moon Jae-in, North Korea continues its provocations. Neither Beijing nor Washington seem able to stop Pyongyang’s ambitious nuclear and missile programs. The scenarios range from bad (maintaining the status quo) to worse (nuclear war). The chances for positive developments seem slim indeed. While some declarations made by the new administration in Seoul indicate a softer tone toward Pyongyang, the reasons for the crisis on the Korean Peninsula have not changed. The most recent development in the North Korean crisis was the test firing of an intermediate-range ballistic missile by the North on May 14, 2017.

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