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Nuclear North Korea: Call for a New Approach

Original Broadcast Date:
December 3, 2016(UTC)

For decades North Korea has made no secret of its intentions to develop nuclear weapons.

This trend has continued under current leader Kim Jong Un, who has described these activities as a response to the threat posed by the US nuclear arsenal.

So far, 2016 alone has seen North Korea conduct two separate nuclear tests, as well as launching several ballistic missiles thought to be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead even as far as the US mainland.

Along with the US, this threat has put North Korea’s Asian neighbors, most notably South Korea and Japan on a state of high alert, with Japan’s missile defenses in a constant state of readiness, and South Korea risking the displeasure of regional superpower China with its plans to introduce the US-developed THAAD defense system.

Moving forward, what are the policy options available to ensure the situation in East Asia does not escalate further? And how is incoming US President Donald Trump likely to deviate from his predecessor Barack Obama’s policy of “strategic patience”?

These were some of the issues discussed in this edition of Global Agenda, as a panel of experts on the geopolitical situation of East Asia convened in the immediate aftermath of the US presidential election at the Graduate School of International Studies at Seoul’s Yonsei University.

The exchanges began with an outline from Wit on the suspected extent of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. This was followed with an exploration of the impact of the scandalous revelations that have recently undermined the credibility of South Korean President Park Geun-hye, as well as the need for cooperation between that nation and Japan, and the impact of recent machinations on China’s own strategic interests.

As the US prepares for Donald Trump to take office in early 2017, Wit stressed the importance of diplomacy as opposed to either primary sanctions against North Korea itself, or secondary economic sanctions targeted at China and designed to coax the influential neighbor of the North into exerting a positive influence.


Lee Chung-min

Professor, Graduate School of International Studies, Yonsei University

Joel Wit

Senior Fellow
The U.S.-Korea Institute 
Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

Gui Yongtao

Associate Professor, School of International Studies, Peking University

Narushige Michishita

Professor, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies


Kim Ji-yoon

Research Fellow, Asan Institute for Policy Studies
Director, Center for Public Opinion and Quantitative Research,
Asan Institute for Policy Studies