Backgrounder: The North Korea Threat

February 13, 2017

Geopolitical Monitor

a US THAAD launcher, public domain, US Army -



As Donald Trump’s newly victorious transition team descended on the White House, outgoing President Barack Obama had a stark warning for them: North Korea is the greatest threat facing the United States, and as such it should be the top security priority of the new administration

Solving the problem of North Korea won’t be easy. Previous governments have staked their credibility – and lost – on trying to induce Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons program in exchange for economic concessions. The military route is equally perilous. Even before Pyongyang developed nuclear weapons, its artillery deployments, short-range missile program, chemical weapon stocks, and close proximity to the South Korean capital made the notion of a pre-emptive strike a costly gamble.

Now the Trump administration takes over amidst maturing North Korean missile and nuclear programs. Will President Trump hammer out the solution that has eluded his predecessors, or will North Korea persist as the Gordian knot of East Asian security?

This backgrounder examines the North Korea threat and what the Trump administration can do about it.

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