North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs remain one of the most challenging threats to the security of the United States and our allies.
Having conducted six nuclear tests and hundreds of missile tests over the last decade, North Korea has successfully developed a nuclear weapon and demonstrated intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities. It is also aggressively pursuing a range of conventional military capabilities that endanger regional allies. The despotic Kim Jong Un regime has used money laundering, overseas labor, cyberattacks, and illegal arms sales—including in support of Russia’s war against Ukraine—to finance its illegal and destabilizing activities, all while committing gross human rights violations at home. According to UN estimates, 41% of the population is food insecure and in need of some form of humanitarian assistance.
Past diplomatic efforts have slowed and at times even halted North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs, but clashing domestic politics and geopolitical developments have made it difficult to sustain that progress. Inconsistent negotiations and a lack of prioritization have failed to prevent North Korea from successfully acquiring nuclear weapon capabilities. While the United States must work closely with South Korea and other regional allies to demonstrate resolve in the face of North Korea’s coercive activities, there is no alternative military solution to this challenge that does not include the high risk of mass casualties, use of nuclear weapons, or escalation into regional conflict.
The United States and the international community have increasingly relied on unilateral and multilateral sanctions to pressure North Korea and to cut off resources that aid its WMD programs, but North Korea continues to demonstrate a willingness to let the North Korea people suffer and an ability to evade sanctions and use its limited revenue on security priorities. Every day that there are no negotiations to contain North Korea’s program and its capabilities, the nuclear risk to the region and the world increases, and the North Korean people bear the brunt of its international isolation.
Amidst rising geopolitical tensions, increased nuclear risk, and eroding respect for international norms, the threat of escalation is growing. We need a surge in diplomacy for peace.— UN Secretary-General António Guterres Hear this quote in context on the 70th Anniversary of the Korean War Armistice Agreement
Continued diplomacy and engagement remain the only way to roll back North Korea’s programs, but successful negotiations will require political will to find win-win solutions and build the necessary support and infrastructure to sustain a step-by-step process.
You can help encourage progress on the North Korea challenge by telling your elected representatives to support diplomatic efforts to reduce threats on the Korean Peninsula and oppose new sanctions that would impede such efforts or hinder the provision of humanitarian assistance to the neediest North Koreans.