4 March 2014
by Daniel Pinkston
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Live Performance: North Korea’s Missile Exercises

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks during the fourth meeting of company commanders and political instructors of the Korean People's Army which took place on October 22 and 23, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang October 25, 2013. REUTERS/KCNA

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks during the fourth meeting of company commanders and political instructors of the Korean People’s Army which took place on October 22 and 23, in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang October 25, 2013. REUTERS/KCNA

By Daniel Pinkston (@dpinkston)

On 27 February, the (North) Korean People’s Army (KPA) Strategic Rocket Forces fired four ballistic missiles from mobile launchers into the Sea of Japan. The firings began at 17:42 local time from Kittaeryŏng, Kangwŏn Province, where similar test launches have occurred in the past. The missiles, most likely Scud variants (Hwasŏng-5/6), can strike most of the South Korean landmass. Two more missiles, probably “extended” Scud variants, also were flight-tested in the morning of 3 March; these can probably strike all of the South.

Some analysts were puzzled that the missile tests occurred shortly after the first inter-Korean family reunions in over three years and during the multinational Key Resolve military exercise and U.S.-South Korea joint and combined Foal Eagle field exercises. Some may interpret this to mean that the North Korean government is divided and unstable, or that Kim Jong-un is not firmly in control, perhaps feeling compelled to take risky actions to placate hardliners in the military. However, this is likely not the case.

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27 February 2014
by Crisis Group
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Cross Purposes: Beijing, Washington and the Korean Peninsula

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) greets visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry before their meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing February 14, 2014. REUTERS/Diego Azubel/Pool

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) greets visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Beijing, 14 February. REUTERS/Diego Azubel/Pool

by Daniel Pinkston (@dpinkston) and Yanmei Xie (@YanmeiXie)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent East Asia tour raised the prospect that the Six-Party Talks – in the deep freeze for over five years – could soon reconvene. After conversing with Chinese officials, Kerry spoke positively of their promise to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons. Kerry announced in Beijing that “China could not have more forcefully reiterated its commitment” to the goal of denuclearising North Korea. In the background was hope that an inter-Korean thaw might be underway, with the two Koreas agreeing to hold the first reunion of separated family members in over three years.

But Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s own statement, while forceful, was far less specific. “China will never allow chaos or war on the Korean Peninsula”. Kerry had said the two sides agreed that the North “must take meaningful, concrete, and irreversible steps towards verifiable denuclearisation, and it needs to begin now”. Wang stressed that the “top priority at the moment is to grasp the opportunity and resume talks”.

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4 December 2013
by Daniel Pinkston
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China’s ADIZ and the Implications for North East Asia

By Dan Pinkston (@dpinkston)

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China’s recent declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea has stimulated much debate and concern and interpretations have varied widely. The Chinese government has asserted that the ADIZ is in accordance with international practice and will contribute to regional peace and air security. But the announcement drew protests from Japan, the United States, South Korea, Australia and others. Within days, military aircraft from the United States, Japan and South Korea defied China’s assertion that all aircraft entering the ADIZ would have to submit flight plans, maintain radio contact and follow directions from the Chinese Defense Ministry or face “emergency defensive measures.”

There are no specific international treaty provisions regulating the establishment and administration of ADIZs. About 20 countries have established ADIZs since the U.S. started the trend in the early days of the Cold War but their legitimacy and role in air safety and security are unclear.

According to the Convention on International Civil Aviation (or Chicago Convention), states have sovereignty over the airspace above their territory, including territorial waters. However, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) defines territorial seas as extending only 12 nautical miles from the coast line. UNCLOS also recognizes a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but coastal states do not have full sovereignty within EEZs. Coastal states have sovereign control of marine resources within EEZs but all states retain the right to navigate or transit EEZs while respecting the rights of coastal states.  According to UNCLOS, coastal states can, for instance, prohibit the dumping of waste and they can regulate foreign vessels seeking the extraction of resources in an EEZ. All states have the right to lay submarine cables and pipelines in the EEZs of other states, but coastal states have jurisdiction of marine scientific research conducted in an EEZ.

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9 September 2013
by Daniel Pinkston
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Civil Society and Basketball Diplomacy in North Korea

Dennis Rodman Press Conference, 9 September 2013. R-L: Crisis Group's Dan Pinkston, Paddy Power, Dennis Rodman. PHOTO: Crisis Group

Dennis Rodman Press Conference, 9 September 2013. R-L: Crisis Group’s Dan Pinkston, Paddy Power, Dennis Rodman. PHOTO: Crisis Group

Has Dennis Rodman Opened the Door to Pyongyang?

By Dan Pinkston (@dpinkston)

North Korea poses a number of traditional and non-traditional security challenges. The international community is dissatisfied with Pyongyang, whether because of fears of spillover effects beyond North Korea’s borders, or by unease over human rights violations within them. North Korea’s policies on human rights, food security, economic security, military affairs, and the proliferation of missiles and weapons of mass destruction repeatedly and understandably bring harsh condemnation from outside.

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26 August 2013
by Daniel Pinkston
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Time to Engage Pyongyang?

The wording in this image reads "among our people" (In North Korea this is translated as "our nation ourselves") on the side of the train. The front of the train reads "independent unification." The bottom of the train reads "improve North-South relations." The banner below the train reads "Let's resolve the confrontation between the North and the South as soon as possible." PHOTO: Uriminzokkiri

The wording in this image reads “among our people” (In North Korea this is translated as “our nation ourselves”) on the side of the train. The front of the train reads “independent unification.” The bottom of the train reads “improve North-South relations.” The banner below the train reads “Let’s resolve the confrontation between the North and the South as soon as possible.” PHOTO: Uriminzokkiri

By Daniel Pinkston (@dpinkston)

When tensions were rising on the Korean peninsula last March and April, some people recommended scaling back or cancelling U.S.-ROK combined military exercises and substituting diplomatic engagement for military deterrence. Some activists and scholars consistently advocate “engagement” as the solution for a multitude of North Korea problems and challenges, including denuclearisation and arms control, confidence-building, food insecurity, and economic development. However, engagement comes in different forms and must be selective to be effective – selective in terms of both methods and timing.

First the environment must be conducive to dialog. The bellicose period in March and early April did not offer such an environment. But when the DPRK’s coercive bargaining game ran out of steam in mid April, Pyongyang turned to its version of a “charm offensive” and proposed all sorts of talks. The switchover occurred as talk of war turned to a “festive atmosphere surrounding the Day of the Sun [Kim Il-sung’s birthday]”. On 16 April, the spokesman for the Korean People’s Army (KPA) Supreme Command issued an ultimatum to South Korea that included threats of military action against the South, but the spokesman concluded by saying, “If the puppet authorities truly want dialogue and negotiations, they should apologise for all anti-DPRK hostile acts, big and small, and show the compatriots their will to stop all these acts in practice”.

By DPRK standards, this was a call for dialog, as was Pyongyang’s decision to blame Seoul for the shutdown of the joint North-South Kaesŏng Industrial Complex (KIC). A spokesman for the General Bureau for Central Guidance to the Development of the Kaesŏng Special Zone, which manages KIC for the DPRK side, announced on 15 May that the future of the KIC depended upon the ROK’s attitude.

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30 April 2013
by Daniel Pinkston
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Gaeseong Industrial Complex: Possible shutdown & implications

dan-arirang-30apr13

All but seven of the remaining South Korean workers at the only joint venture with the North have returned home.

The Unification Ministry in Seoul says five people, including the chairman of the Gaeseong Industrial Development Management Committee, plus two telecommunications company employees will remain in the zone to negotiate “unresolved issues.”

North East Asia Deputy Project Director, Daniel Pinkston, joined Arirang News to give an analysis of the current situation.

11 April 2013
by rtraynor
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North Korea Missile Failure Could Be Disastrous


North Korea has moved at least one midrange missile to its east coast for a possible test firing and may launch others. In this video, Crisis Group’s Daniel Pinkston speaks to the Wall Street Journal about what North Korea hopes to gain by escalating tensions.

8 April 2013
by Daniel Pinkston
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Why is North Korea Risking the Closure of the Kaesŏng Industrial Complex?

PHOTO: Uriminzokkiri

After five days of restricting access to the inter-Korean Kaesŏng Industrial Complex (KIC), Pyongyang ordered suspension of operations pending a review on the future of the project. KIC was established in accordance with an agreement reached during the June 2000 inter-Korean summit and remains one of the few symbols of inter-Korean cooperation. The project is home to 123 South Korean firms that employ about 53,000 North Korean workers who produce labour-intensive manufactured goods that are losing competitiveness in South Korea’s increasingly high-wage economy. For Pyongyang, KIC is an important source of hard currency, given that both the country’s export competitiveness and its foreign-exchange sources are very limited.

The North Korean government receives about $90 million per year for KIC labour services, but workers see only a portion of this, which they receive in North Korean wŏn at the official exchange rate. Former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and supporters of the “sunshine policy” envisioned that KIC would be a transformative project that would draw North Korea out of its isolation. It offered an opportunity for North Koreans to see the subversive reality of an alternative economic system; this was in turn expected to encourage reform and opening. Instead, North Korea has operated KIC as if it were a hermetically sealed space station. South Korea has supplied electricity, water and waste-water treatment, heating oil, construction materials, and components and material inputs for the manufactures. The only things North Korea has supplied are the land and labour.

Given that the North succeeded in sealing off KIC, why would the Pyongyang leadership now risk losing it? There are two possibilities, neither of which is reassuring for the future of the Korean peninsula.

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