During the height of the Cold War, North Korean defectors were celebrated as symbols of freedom and a direct indictment of a brutal North Korean regime. Yet over time, the meaning endowed upon North Korean defectors steadily changed. They became living monuments to the complex facets of the frozen conflict: ...

As the U.S. President prepares to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, sources tell The Cipher Brief that U.S. Special Operations Forces have been preparing for potential action against the North Korean regime for more than a year. This, as the Pentagon recently completed a sweeping review ...

Bottom Line:  The risk posed to U.S. national security by what are believed to be Russian-backed hacking groups, is similar to the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis according to Cipher Brief Experts, but different, in that the U.S. has no clear and obvious deterrent this time around. Recent Developments:  The ...

Bottom Line:   Pakistani citizens are heading to the polls next month in a public display of democracy and choice. Yet, with Pakistan’s military continuing to play a leading role in the country’s political affairs, it seems that the upcoming elections will once again amount to a stamp on an otherwise ...

Bottom Line: Moscow’s increasingly assertive military activity in Eastern Europe and the Middle East seeks to project the power of a resurgent Russia in relation to a retreating United States, while concealing its economic and political fragility at home. In doing so, the Kremlin walks a fine line between escalation ...

Despite indications that China’s economy is likely to experience a moderate slowdown, the world’s second largest economy – and largest market by headcount – continues to expand the depth of its interactions with the world. From the One Belt, One Road project to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the Asian ...

President Donald Trump has informed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that he will not be attending the summit between the two leaders set to take place in Singapore on June 12, following a series of aggressive statements made by both parties. It is not yet clear whether the cancellation ...

It has now been 18 months since the November 2016 presidential election, during which the U.S. intelligence community believes Russia acted not only to interfere with U.S. elections, but with clear preference for one of the candidates. However, Washington and many of America’s leaders are still not on the same ...

After North Korea threatened to withdraw from the upcoming face-to-face summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, some media outlets reported that Trump was becoming concerned about the political risks if the talks were to fall through—and considering not going ahead with them. Many experts believe North Korea’s ...

North Korea has threatened to pull out of planned talks between leaders Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump, citing opposition to U.S. demands for unilateral denuclearization and comments made by national security advisor John Bolton that referenced the “Libyan model” for denuclearization. President Trump has clarified that the U.S. ...

Months of fruitful engagement between North Korea, South Korea and the United States may soon turn sour. Yesterday, Pyongyang warned that ongoing joint military exercises and aggressive statements made by the Trump administration were damaging the diplomatic atmosphere. The regime canceled upcoming talks scheduled with South Korea, and threatened to ...

In a provocative new essay, Vladislav Surkov, a top aide to President Vladimir Putin, says Russia is ending a centuries-long quest to join the West and preparing for "100 years (200? 300?) of geopolitical solitude." If Russia goes this way it will be because of unwise policies, not a Western cold shoulder. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel ...

According to CNBC, sources “with direct knowledge of U.S. intelligence reports” say China has installed long-range anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles on three of its artificial islands in the region—and the deployment took place in just the past 30 days. The deployment of missiles on these islands hasn’t been confirmed independently, ...

Maligned as a bastion of extremism and a top terrorist safe haven, Pakistan’s Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA), along the country’s northwestern border with Afghanistan, have endured a significant transformation in the last few years. Between June 2014 and May 2016, the Pakistani army launched operation Zarb-e-Azb, literally translated as ...

There’s a dark purpose in Kim Jong Un’s proffered moratorium on nuclear and ballistic missile testing announced over the weekend. Kim, with the apparent complicity of South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, seeks to eventually merge his state into the South  – and drive out U.S. troops from the peninsula. Most ...

Bottom Line: China’s “One Belt, One Road” economic strategy, aimed at developing regional trades routes connecting East Asia, South Asia, Central Asia and Europe, has expanded into Pakistan where Chinese companies have launched numerous projects to build up Pakistan’s infrastructure and energy sector as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor ...

On Saturday, North Korea announced it was suspending nuclear weapons and ballistic missile testing, ahead of this week’s summit with South Korea and ahead of a planned summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in June. Cipher Brief expert Amb. Joseph DeTrani, former envoy to the Six Party Talks, gave his ...

Bottom Line: The Kremlin employs various often overlapping and competitive security and intelligence services to create multiple sources of intelligence, encourage risk-taking and keep a wary eye on each other. This has enabled Russian President Vladimir Putin to consolidate power by playing agencies off of each other to avoid uninvited ...

Bottom Line: While much attention is rightfully given to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) nuclear and ballistic missile arsenal, the country’s naval and merchant fleets are the ones that have traditionally extended the reach of Pyongyang to bypass sanctions through illicit trade on the high seas while also ...

Cipher Brief experts debated the risk versus blowback of striking North Korea before it has a chance to strike the continental United States, at The Cipher Brief’s 2018 annual Threat Conference, in Sea Island, Ga. Admiral (ret.) James “Sandy” Winnefeld, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during ...

In the book “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy,” John Le Carré’s chief character, retired British intelligence officer George Smiley, is reminded of the danger of old spies staying too long in the game. To avoid that trap, Smiley vows to leave the secret world behind by retiring to the country where ...

"What South Koreans want is an unconditional withdrawal of U.S. troops from the South, an unwelcome guest that poses a threat to peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.” -14 March 2018, Rodong Sinmun, North Korea Newspaper After decades of effort, North Korea is close to being able to credibly ...

Resentment, an insatiable appetite for women and an even larger appetite for cash are all elements that led to an insider threat that spelled a devastating theft of U.S. technology by a Chinese company. But this time, the culprit was caught – or at least, the company behind him was. ...

Public reactions to prospects for a breakthrough at a Trump-Kim summit are proving a triumph of hope over experience. North Korea has been feeling the heat from the Trump administration’s effective “maximum pressure” campaign, and has every incentive to gut its momentum, or reverse it. In response, Kim Jong Un ...

President Donald Trump has agreed to meet with Kim Jong Un and the other players, China and North Korea, are preparing. The question is: How should Trump prepare for the meeting? Experts find a number of reasons to be skeptical about this abrupt announcement, especially the lack of lower-level preparation ...

The United States has taken a number of steps in recent weeks to push back on Russian aggression, but they won’t deter Russia’s aggressive campaign to expand influence at home and abroad unless they take direct aim at the power and pocketbook of Russian President Vladimir Putin – and the ...

Bottom Line: As monsoon season bears down on Southeast Asia, U.S. officials say up to a 100,000 Rohingya refugees sheltering in the hills of Bangladesh face a potential humanitarian catastrophe. They are among the 860,000 ethnic Rohingya Muslims driven out of Myanmar by a violent crackdown that the U.S. has ...

During two years of intense negotiations with North Korea, from August 2003 to September 2005, North Korea’s constant refrain to U.S. negotiators was, ‘Accept us as a nuclear weapons state and we’ll be a good friend of the U.S.’ They were told that the U.S. would never accept North Korea ...

On Thursday, South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-yong announced that President Donald Trump had accepted an invitation to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and the meeting will take place “by May” at a time and place to be determined. This development could be referred to as a ...

Bottom Line: With the stated national goal of achieving ‘great power status,’ China’s military modernization efforts have contributed to rising tension in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as between China and the United States. China’s growing ability to project military force – buttressed by the opening of its first overseas ...

On March 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted of new nuclear-capable weapons that could overcome any U.S. missile defenses, in a feisty pre-election “state-of-the-nation” speech. He presented Russian military force as a “guarantor of peace on our planet,” and also made some over-the-top economic and social promises, just 17 days ...

Bottom Line: Although the Philippine army managed to suppress an ISIS-affiliated rebellion in the country’s southern island of Mindanao last summer, ISIS fighters fleeing Syria and Iraq continue to trickle into the country and pose a growing jihadist threat throughout Southeast Asia. The U.S. and the Philippines have further bolstered ...

The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics closed on Sunday, but the games may have opened the door for dialogue between the United States and North Korea. Following a meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean representatives, the South Korean government announced that North Korea was willing to have talks ...

Bottom Line: While the Trump administration has recently pressured South Korea on trade practices, the two nations remain united on pushing North Korea toward denuclearization, despite Pyongyang’s attempts to drive a wedge between the two. It is unlikely that their financial disagreements will disrupt that united front, but the money ...

Bottom line: Beijing aimed skyward with its latest attempt to expand areas of influence, unilaterally opening up several flight routes including one between Shanghai and Hong Kong that is uncomfortably close to Taiwanese airspace -- another step in its diplomatic and military pressure campaign to coerce Taiwan to rejoin China. ...

North Korea’s Olympic delegation has left Pyeongchang, and stuck South Korean President Moon Jae-in with a decision: whether to accept an invitation to Pyongyang for talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. It would be the first time a South Korean president has visited the North Korean capital city since ...

Just ahead of President Donald Trump’s delivery of the State of the Union, the State Department released a list of “influential Russians,” including several politicians and oligarchs, who could face sanctions in the future for their proximity to the Kremlin. The list was later determined to be pulled from Forbes’ ...

Bottom Line: The potential of economic development in the Arctic for a financially strapped Russia has increased the Kremlin’s attention to the security of its northern waters. The result is a push to bolster its military presence in the region. But against a backdrop of increasing geopolitical tensions between Russia ...

The People’s Republic of China has not fought a war since 1979, but the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been a very close student of other peoples’ wars. They have carefully analyzed foreign, especially American, conflicts of the past several decades, and they have assessed the impact of information and ...

Bottom Line: China is aggressively pursuing capabilities such as anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons that could diminish the U.S. military’s reconnaissance, navigation and communications in case of war in the South China Sea or on the Korean Peninsula. But while China’s ASAT capabilities threaten U.S. assets in space, it’s still unclear how ...

Bottom Line: As part of its ambitious strategy to evolve into a leading global power by 2050, China has spent considerable resources upgrading its naval capabilities. Through such undertakings, China has significantly enhanced its force projection in East Asia, where it has staked claim to disputed islands and waters as ...

Bottom Line: Since 2016, the North Korean regime has shown its hand as a state sponsor of cybercrime by targeting international financial institutions, engaging in broad ransomware campaigns, and illegally accruing and laundering cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. This pattern of behavior supports Pyongyang’s objective of self-financing the ruling Korean Worker’s ...

The Trump administration’s decision to suspend security assistance to the Pakistani military pending “decisive action” against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network represents an attempt to hold Pakistan accountable. While leaders in Islamabad are highly unlikely to shift their national security strategy to align with U.S. interests, the administration ...

North Korea made clear its aim to divide the U.S. from its South Korean ally when the North and South negotiators met this week: “All our weapons, including atomic bombs, hydrogen bombs and ballistic missile are only aimed at the United States, not our brethren, nor China and Russia,” said ...

Bottom Line: North and South Korean Olympians may be marching together come February after Tuesday’s breakthrough talks – the first between the two sides in two years – but North Korea’s staunch refusal to discuss its nuclear weapons program means a likely return to nuclear impasse after the Olympic games ...

North and Sound Korea have held their first high-level meeting in two years – agreeing to send North Korean athletes to the upcoming Olympics in the South Korean resort of Pyeonchang -- and to reopen a military hotline. It’s a welcome warming to the nuclear chill on the Korean Peninsula, ...

Cipher Brief expert Gordon Chang says the U.S. has leverage over China that it isn’t using to defuse the challenge from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The Cipher Brief’s Brian Garrett-Glaser interviewed Chang as Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump trade threats of pressing a nuclear “button,” even amid ...

Bottom Line: U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to cut off aid to Pakistan to force Islamabad to take a harder line on terrorism. But in the past decade, economic leverage over Pakistan has yielded only short-term results. The Trump administration also runs the risk of incurring consequential backlash from ...

For this last week of 2017, we asked our experts to predict what they see for the year ahead. CIA veteran and Asia hand Amb. Joseph DeTrani spoke about what Beijing could do to check the rising threat from North Korea, including implementing U.N. sanctions that Pyongyang has called an ...

For this last week of 2017, we asked our experts to look back on key topics for this year, and predict what they see for the year ahead. Cipher Brief expert, CIA veteran and Russia hand Steve Hall looks ahead to U.S. relations with Moscow, as Russia gears up for ...