Imagine the middle of nowhere Alaska. Got that in your head? Great. Now drive 2½  hours further into nowhere and you have arrived at Fort Greeley. I visited in the fall of 2015. It was cold out there—a wet, bitter cold.  It’s also slightly eerie. The absolutely enormous ravens all ...

From day one, South Korea’s new President, Moon Jae-in, has shown he will be a different type of leader. He confirmed a campaign promise that he would consider visiting Pyongyang before Washington to tackle the North Korean nuclear issue, albeit only if the conditions were right. He has said he ...

In his first days in office, newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in has tried to reassure the governments of the United States, Japan, and China that he will work to reduce tensions with North Korea, however his preference for engagement over sanctions has some experts wondering if his North ...

Liberal candidate Moon Jae-in won South Korea’s presidential election on Tuesday. Moon’s decisive win, with approximately 40 percent of the vote and a 14 percent lead over the next closest candidate, signifies the South Korean electorate’s desire for change after 10 years of conservative rule and a political corruption controversy ...

Can there be serious negotiations so that diplomacy may end the growing threat of a military confrontation on the Korean Peninsula? Not yet, is my guess. Trump, since his April 6-7 meeting at Mar-a-Lago with President Xi Jinping, has leaned on the Chinese leader to put greater economic pressure on ...

In a wide-ranging address to State Department employees Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson laid out his vision for the future of the department, the Trump’s Administration’s “America First” approach to foreign policy, and global issues touching nearly every continent. Tillerson’s speech, his second to department workers since being sworn ...

There is an important emerging gap in thought over whether North Korea is several years away from having the ability to threaten the continental United States with a nuclear-armed missile, which many journalists are reporting, or whether North Korea actually already has that capability now.  It’s an important distinction, especially ...

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, at age 33, is continuing his father’s and grandfather’s pattern of wild threats and bluster to cloak development of nuclear warheads and missile delivery systems that has caused problems for American presidents since Dwight Eisenhower. President Trump, aged 70 and a novice at dealing with ...

As North Korea’s provocations increase, questions have been raised about whether the Trump Administration’s responses have made matters worse and if there really is a strategy to deal with Pyongyang’s expanding nuclear and missile programs. President Donald Trump has used harsh rhetoric toward North Korea, saying “all options are on ...

President Donald Trump may be the only world leader impressed with the impact of the recent United States use of Tomahawk missiles in Syria and later the giant, GBU-43/B MOAB bomb in Afghanistan. Although both those American military actions have not affected fighting in either Syria or Afghanistan, Trump and ...

Official statements and public discussions on China’s willingness to punish or otherwise influence North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in a direction favorable to U.S. interests have been markedly optimistic in recent days. In an interview April 19, Vice President Mike Pence said “China is taking unprecedented steps to economically isolate ...

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea on Monday and warned Pyongyang the “patience” of the U.S. “has run out.”  His comments come a day after North Korea conducted a missile test that failed when the missile blew up almost immediately, according ...

President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday that “North Korea is looking for trouble” following Pyongyang’s threat to use nuclear force against the United States.  North Korea’s official newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, said, “Our revolutionary strong army is keenly watching every move by enemy elements with our nuclear sight focused on the U.S. ...

Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time. While the two agree on the need to strengthen cooperation between the U.S. and China, there are several agenda items that are likely to become contentious, not least of which is North Korea. Trump ...

Since June 25, 1950, when North Korea, with Soviet and Chinese backing, invaded the South, in an effort to reunify the country, North Korea has been on the offensive. Ever since, the U.S., South Korea, and Japan have been playing defense in a failed attempt to get North Korea to ...

It is fashionable in Washington to deride, or even condemn, every move President Donald Trump makes that is a departure from past, staid U.S. foreign policy.  Secretary of State Tillerson's terse public statement on Wednesday's North Korean KN-14 missile test into the Sea of Japan was the latest example of ...

Over the past decade, Japan has had to deal with external threats, from Chinese assertiveness in the seas surrounding the island nation to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been making moves to give his country greater capabilities and flexibility to defend itself. The Cipher Brief’s ...

In the span of one week we have seen North Korea test four missiles, evidence of U.S. attempts to sabotage North Korea’s missile program with cyber capabilities, the deployment of the controversial THAAD missile defense system to South Korea, and China proposing that the U.S. give up joint military drills ...

Despite UN resolutions and international opposition, North Korea test-launched four intermediate range ballistic missiles on Monday that reached within 200 miles of Japan. The test demonstrates not only Pyongyang’s disregard for more sanctions, but also its progress in missile technology. Besides North Korea, Russia, China, and Iran have also devoted ...

North Korea’s missile test on Sunday reaffirmed the case for greater missile defense in South Korea, but it did nothing to change China’s perspective on the matter. Beijing believes that any U.S. missile defense in South Korea would undermine its strategic nuclear deterrent, and therefore its national security. The U.S. ...

North Korea’s latest test on Sunday of a nuclear capable Pukguksong-2 intermediate range ballistic missile displayed its inexorable advance in acquiring missile technology.  The test disrupted a dinner between President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and has earned North Korea further rebuke not only from the United ...

The United States relies on missile defense systems to protect its allies and its troops stationed all around the world. Yet in some instances, the deployment of such systems is a strain on regional stability. The Cipher Brief spoke to Philip Coyle, a senior science fellow at the Center for ...

North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile this weekend, marking Pyongyang’s first provocation since President Donald Trump took office. The test coincided with Trump hosting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Palm Beach estate and club Mar-a-Lago. The pair turned their dinner into an open-air strategy session, and then ...

From South Korea’s point of view, the year of 2016 will be remembered as one of the most challenging years since the armistice of the Korean War was signed in 1953. North Korea conducted its fourth and fifth nuclear tests on January 6 and September 9 respectively, and it continued ...

Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s speech has triggered fevered speculation about the possibility of an impending North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test, even provoking President-elect Donald Trump to tweet, “it won’t happen.”  Yet for anyone paying attention to North Korea’s development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the prospect of ...

Within a week North Korea has gone beyond its New Year’s Day promise that it was close to testing an ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile), claiming it can launch one “anytime and anywhere.” This is unwelcome news for South Korea, which finds itself in a period of internal political turmoil. The ...

Historically, South Korea’s geographical position among larger and—in the case of its neighbor to the north—adversarial countries has placed it in a precarious foreign policy situation. This has been compounded by the recent impeachment of President Park Geun Hye at a time when North Korea has advanced its nuclear and ...

Political turmoil in South Korea, following its president’s impeachment, could be exacerbated if North Korea tries to take advantage of a vacuum. That’s according to Jonathan Pollack, Interim SK-Korea Foundation Chair in Korea Studies at the Brookings Institution. “Pyongyang is highly practiced at injecting instability at times it deems appropriate, ...

In our graduate school, we emphasize the importance of understanding the history, culture, and political system of an adversary, which often gives you a better appreciation of how they view strategic issues of geopolitical concern.  When the students discuss tension with North Korea, we note the 2000 years of recorded ...

As the incoming administration continues to define its contours, and as President-elect Donald Trump begins to outline a foreign policy strategy for the next four years, it’s worth reassessing the U.S.  approach toward one of Washington’s persistent challenges: North Korea. Earlier this month, the Obama administration named the Democratic People’s ...

Chinese rivalry with the U.S. for regional dominance will be central to U.S. East Asia policy for the incoming administration.  China’s aggressive use of economic leverage, its mercantilism and revanchism will continue to complicate U.S. relations with its main rival - and potential partner - in East Asia.  This is ...

The latest North Korean nuclear test has caused the international community to once again reexamine all of the available policy options for how to hinder and eventually end North Korea’s nuclear program and create a nuclear weapons-free Korean peninsula. The Cipher Brief spoke with former CIA leadership analyst Soo Kim ...

The fifth North Korean nuclear test has left policy makers scrambling for both short term and long term solutions to a problem that, so far, has no solution. Many experts have called for a return to a multilateral negotiation framework such as the Six Party Talks. The Cipher Brief spoke ...

The United States and its allies in East Asia have had sound reasons for the current approach to dealing with North Korea.  However, it carries with it a danger exemplified by the latest and largest North Korean nuclear test.  North Korea has been rightly dubbed by many experienced diplomats, the ...

The latest North Korean nuclear test was the largest to date, yet the international consensus on a response is as fractured and indecisive as ever. In the days following the test, China announced that it opposed the unilateral sanctions pursued by Japan. The United States is in support of sanctions, ...

North Korea announced Friday morning that it had successfully conducted its fifth nuclear test at the subterranean Punggye-ri test site. The U.S. geological survey confirmed a 5.3 magnitude earthquake nearby, stating that it was caused by an “explosion.” In an official statement, Pyongyang declared it had tested a "nuclear warhead ...

Yesterday, at 5:30am Pyongyang time, North Korea achieved what, as little as two years ago, many experts thought was impossible: it test launched a missile from a submarine that traveled over 500km. This unexpected success is worrisome for several reasons. Aside from the technical leap forward that the test demonstrates, ...

North Korea is once again taking provocative actions, this time launching two ballistic missiles in which one landed for the first time in Japanese controlled waters.    Last month, North Korea fired three short-range missiles into the sea.    The latest series of tests, which violate UN resolutions, come on the heels ...

North Korea informed the U.S. on July 10th that it would cut off the New York channel of communication to the U.S. Government.  If American policymakers lament their own lack of leverage against North Korea, this move demonstrates the limited options Pyongyang has with which to respond to the July ...

Amid the continuing leitmotif of missile tests, nuclear weapons development, and unwavering anti-South Korean and anti-U.S. rhetoric, North Korea’s cyber activities have once again risen in the order of importance among security and political circles. The latest North Korean cyber-episode was the revelation made by South Korean authorities that North ...

North Korea’s army of 6,000 hackers have been implicated in a multimillion dollar bank heist, the theft of intelligence from finance and defense firms, and the infiltration of infrastructure networks—all in the first six months of 2016. This only adds to the numerous attacks against South Korea – one of ...

If confirmed, North Korea has perpetrated the first state-sponsored digital bank robbery in history.  It shows that North Korea is getting desperate and therefore that sanctions are working but at the same time that the international community must take additional steps to safeguard commerce and trade.  According to the digital ...

North Korea is threatening the Global Community with its reckless nuclear and missile behavior.   They have consistently disregarded U.N. Security Council Resolutions and have made clear, especially to China and the U.S., that they are a nuclear weapons state. The four nuclear tests, the most recent in 2016, have progressively ...

Last week, South Korea, Japan and the U.S. announced they will hold their first-ever joint anti-missile exercise next month, signaling an effort by Korea and Japan to overcome decades of historical tension and work together. The joint exercise, set for June 28, will focus on information exchange and logistics as ...

Two weeks have passed since the close of North Korea’s 7th Workers’ Party Congress and, for the moment, the country’s streak of provocations that kicked off 2016 have abated. On Friday, Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) released an official statement from the National Defense Commission calling for military talks ...

Following the conclusion of North Korea’s 7th Workers’ Party Congress, many questions remain regarding the future direction of economic and foreign policies. The Cipher Brief spoke to Gordon Chang, author of Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World to learn more. The Cipher Brief: So far, reports of the ...

Amidst the fanfare of North Korea’s 7th Workers’ Party Congress, Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un’ promotion to Party Chairman was one of the few substantive announcements to emerge. The Cipher Brief spoke to former CIA linguist and leadership analyst Soo Kim to learn more about the significance of his new ...

What’s in a nickname? A term of endearment? A backhanded compliment laden with criticism of one’s flaws? In South Korea, a politician’s nickname – given affectionately and sometimes not so lightly by the public – conveys his or her most salient attributes and character. It’s also reflective of the constituents’ ...

North Korea held its Seventh Workers’ Party Congress last week. The primary focus of the Congress was to consolidate Kim Jong-un’s domestic power base and clarify the policy direction for the country’s future development.  Based on the statements released from the Congress, North Korea continues to seek nuclear power status, ...

North Korea’s first Party Congress in three decades, a grand spectacle at which Kim Jong-un’s greatest achievement seems to have been giving himself the newly-created title of the chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), cannot have given the long-suffering citizens of North Korea much hope for a ...