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"North Korea: What’s Next for the Region?"

Chung Moon Joon (center), member of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea, speaks on “North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Perceptions, Reality, and Options” at a Belfer Center Director’s Lunch.

"North Korea: What’s Next for the Region?"

Newsletter Article, Belfer Center Newsletter, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Summer 2013

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Managing the Atom; Future of Diplomacy Project


As threats from North Korea intensified this spring, Korean Peninsula experts from the Belfer Center provided insight and analysis.

In early April, Nicholas Burns, longtime diplomat and director of the Belfer Center’s Future of Diplomacy Project, presented his perspective on North Korean behavior in a PolicyCast for Harvard Kennedy School.

“It’s a bizarre, insular regime, but it’s not irrational,” Burns said. “They respond to power. . . . [and] the country that holds the greatest measure of power in the Korean Peninsula is the United States . . .” The North Koreans are interested in one thing; they want their family to survive as leaders of North Korea.” He added that China is the only country that has a measure of influence in North Korea. “What’s frustrating about China,” Burns said, “is they don’t often use the influence they have to produce better North Korean behavior.”

John Park, associate with the Center’s Project on Managing the Atom and Stanton Nuclear Security Junior Faculty Fellow at MIT, weighed in on China’s role in North Korea in an April interview with “Before It’s News.” In an immediate sense, Park said, China has a unique role to play. “It can leverage its diplomatic relations with both Koreas to fashion an indirect military hotline between North and South Korea. In order to deal with a potential accidental exchange of fire, China should initiate frequent independent communications with Pyongyang and Seoul. By establishing this regular interaction, China may be able to develop a nascent capability to engage both capitals during the early phase of an accidental escalation.”

(For more on North Korea from Center experts, see


For more information about this publication please contact the Belfer Center Communications Office at 617-495-9858.

For Academic Citation:

"North Korea: What’s Next for the Region?." Belfer Center Newsletter, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Summer 2013.

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