Within the next week, North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump will face situations that will require them to take steps that could increase already heightened tensions, or force one or both to back down from recent threatening statements. On August 21, some 40,000 American and South ...

The nightmarish threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program appears more real than ever, but the devil is in the details. This summer’s most recent round of tension came after the successful test by North Korea of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) potentially capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, and ...

In the wake of President Donald Trump saying threats to the United States from North Korea would be met with “fire and fury,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued Pyongyang a warning — and a call for de-escalation. “The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit ...

After President Donald Trump’s vow that any threats from North Korea “will be met with fire, fury, and frankly, power the likes of which this world has never seen before,” Pyongyang responded within hours, threatening to strike American military forces based on the U.S. island of Guam. The war of ...

Top Cabinet officials sought to dial back the rhetoric while still pushing a strong message to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un following President Donald Trump’s vow that threats to the United States from Pyongyang would be met with “fire and fury.” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Wednesday looked to reframe ...

If there has been one common refrain from the Trump administration, it is that President Barack Obama’s policy of “strategic patience” towards North Korea was not effective in deterring Pyongyang from pursuing its nuclear ambitions. But President Donald Trump and his advisers appear to have replaced strategic patience with an ...

President Donald Trump vowed to respond to North Korea with “fire and fury” if the rogue nation continues to threaten the United States. Speaking to reporters at the Trump National Golf Course in Bedminster, New Jersey on Tuesday, Trump said “North Korea best not make any more threats to the ...

America’s next stealth bomber, known as the B-21 Raider, will become the Air Force’s primary aircraft in the strategic bomber leg of the nuclear triad. Slated for delivery in 2025, it will employ cutting edge stealth and electronic warfare technologies while also incorporating a flexible architecture to allow for future ...

When North Korea commits a provocation, the U.S. often responds by conducting a flyover with its strategic bombers. American bombers flew over South Korea after both of Pyongyang’s recent intercontinental ballistic missile tests this month as well as nuclear tests in previous years. Strategic bombers can display American power and ...

America’s strategic bomber force is comprised of some of the Air Force’s oldest aircraft. The B-52 has served since the 1950s and will remain a valuable aircraft for decades more. However, this is contingent on developing the Long Range Standoff cruise missile to replace the aging Air-Launched Cruise Missile. This ...

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson capped off a whirlwind weekend at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Ministerial meeting in Manilla, Philippines by suggesting the United States would be open to dialogue if North Korea stopped its provocative actions. “The best signal that North Korea could give us that ...

My first meeting with the North Korean delegation to the Six Party Talks in 2003 was instructive.  Their lead negotiator, First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-Gwan, said the U.S. should accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state, and like Pakistan, North Korea would be a good friend of the ...

As if there were not enough world problems already facing the United States, President Donald Trump is now talking about declaring Iran “non-compliant” with the July 2015 nuclear agreement that the Tehran regime signed with the P5+1 – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, and Germany. By U.S. law, ...

Editor's Note: Amidst harsh rhetoric from both U.S. President Donald Trump and the North Korean regime, tensions are currently extremely elevated. After North Korea's missile test at the end of July, The Cipher Brief revisits its conversation with Michael Morell on Kim Jong-un's actions and intent.  American, South Korean and Japanese ...

President Donald Trump’s administration slapped fresh sanctions on Iran on Tuesday, shortly after certifying the country is technically complying with the nuclear deal — a move that experts say is a key part of the White House’s approach until the comprehensive review of Iran policy is completed. The Treasury Department ...

Among the three legs of the triad, the U.S. Navy’s ballistic missile submarines are the most survivable and the hardest to detect. Their advanced nuclear propulsion and sound-dampening technology allow them to sail silently anywhere in the world. However, the current fleet of Ohio Class submarines is nearing the end ...

The only remaining U.S. ICBM, the Minuteman III, entered service in 1970. While upgrades have extended the life of the Minuteman III program, the missiles themselves, silos, and command and control systems are all in need of modernization. The Air Force’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program will replace these missiles ...

Defense Secretary James Mattis on June 14 gave Congress an update on the 2017 Nuclear Posture Review, saying, “We’re looking at each leg of the triad and we’re looking at each weapon inside each leg.” “What I’m looking for,” he said, “is a deterrent that will be most compelling to ...

President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met for the first time last Thursday to discuss trade, stationing U.S. troops in South Korea, and most importantly, finding a common approach to halting and dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program. Then, just days later, on July 4th, North Korea successfully ...

North Korea took a significant step forward in its missile program this week with a successful test launch of what is believed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).  This technical milestone highlights the questions surrounding potential military or diplomatic responses to North Korea, given the threat any kind of ...

Every recent U.S. administration (Clinton, Bush, and Obama) has confronted the problem of North Korea’s (DPRK) nuclear weapons program. While claiming their predecessors failed, successive administrations have shared the same objective: completely roll back the DPRK’s development of a deliverable nuclear weapons capability and prevent proliferation of a nuclear weapon ...

As we approach the two-year anniversary of the signing of the landmark nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 world powers—the U.S., UK, France, Russia, China plus Germany—The Cipher Brief sat down with network expert General Jack Keane to discuss the likelihood that the deal holds, what could transpire if ...

Twenty-five years of failed negotiations with North Korea.  Since 1993, our efforts to halt North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons have failed. What have we learned from this experience? The 1994 Agreed Framework froze North Korea’s plutonium program, but it did not halt North Korea’s desire for nuclear weapons. Thus, ...

There could not be a riper time than the present for North Korean provocations. Over the past six months, leadership changes took place in both the U.S. and South Korea, the DPRK’s two greatest adversaries. In Washington, the advent of the Trump Administration in January signaled to the Kim Jong-un ...

In the late 1990s, the United States returned to the idea of building a system that could defend the homeland from long-range missiles launched by North Korea, Iran, or any other adversary. The Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program has been under development for two decades. In that time, the program ...

North Korea’s successful launch of the road-mobile intermediate range Hwasong-12 missile on Sunday yet again demonstrated the Kim Jong-un regime’s perseverance and improving technical acumen in developing ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. The missile had a 30-minute flight time and reached an altitude of more than 1300 miles. ...

For decades, North Korea’s continued advancements in ballistic missile technology has sustained U.S. interest in missile defense that can protect the U.S. homeland from nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system is the Pentagon’s solution for targeting and destroying long-range missiles outside of the Earth’s atmosphere. Though ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

Pressure is growing for development of a new, U.S., low-yield, land-based or air-launched, tactical nuclear weapon as a response to Russia’s recent deployment of a nuclear-capable, intermediate-range, land-based cruise missile. The newly deployed Russian cruise missile poses a risk to most American and NATO military facilities in Europe and “violates ...

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 ...

U.S. President Donald Trump and his Administration have been quick to use forceful rhetoric when discussing U.S. policy towards Iran during their first five weeks in office. However, whether a strong-armed approach to Iran is in fact the most effective direction for U.S.-Iranian relations is an open question. Early on ...

U.S.-Iran tensions are likely to rise in the coming months. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 (United States, UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany) has been roundly criticized by President Donald Trump and others, including some lawmakers on Capitol Hill. 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 ...

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. ...

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 ...

The Trump Administration is correct that the U.S. should focus on the significant threat posed by Iran’s misbehavior in the Middle East. Luckily, history provides a guide on how we can change that behavior. Some say that the threat from Iran’s malign behavior is overstated. Some say that the malign ...

At 12:00PM on Friday, Jan. 20, the nuclear “football,” a briefcase containing the launch codes for the U.S. nuclear arsenal, was passed to a new Commander-in-Chief. Donald Trump enters the Oval Office at a time of dual necessity: U.S. nuclear forces, which include 6,800 nuclear weapons, are in need of ...

The pursuit of nuclear arms control agreements and other efforts to draw down nuclear forces to reduce nuclear dangers is a goal that is almost as old as the nuclear weapon itself. It has been a major national security and foreign policy objective for nearly all U.S. administrations, Democratic or ...

This year, the Donald J. Trump administration will review the state of U.S. nuclear forces, the nation’s nuclear policy and posture, and how it fits the current and emerging strategic environment. With that review comes an opportunity to communicate to friends and adversaries alike that deterrence has returned to the ...

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 ...

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 ...