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  • Commentary posted October 15, 2014 by Bruce Klingner North Korea's Young Kim There to Stay

    Kim Jong Un has further solidified his control over North Korea by reportedly purging his uncle Jang Sung-taek, Vice Chairman of the important Nation Defense Commission. Although Jang was often referred to as the "second most powerful man in North Korea," he may now been ousted from the leadership elite for the third time. He has twice returned to the inner circle of…

  • Commentary posted October 15, 2014 by Bruce Klingner Power, Not Policy, Drives Pyongyang's Purge

    Despite being the “second most powerful man in North Korea,” Jang Song Taek has reportedly been purged from the leadership elite for the third time. Jang, Vice Chairman of the important National Defense Commission, ascended to the pinnacle of power after marrying the sister of previous leader Kim Jong Il. Although Jang returned to senior positions after his previous…

  • Commentary posted October 15, 2014 by Bruce Klingner Abe's Yasukuni Visit Imperils Allied Security Interests

    Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's trip to Yasukuni Shrine is a serious foreign policy mistake that threatens allied security interests in Asia. Although Abe expressed "severe remorse" for Japan's historic actions, he should have realized that the visit was needlessly provocative and would exacerbate already strained relations with the United States and South Korea. Abe's…

  • Commentary posted October 15, 2014 by Bruce Klingner North Korean Power Politics Get More Ruthless

    Pyongyang announced on December 12 the trial and execution of Jang Sung-taek, former vice chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission and uncle to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Although Kim has already purged hundreds of officials during his two year reign, Jang's ouster is highly unusual, even by North Korean standards. Jang is married to the sister of…

  • Commentary posted October 10, 2014 by Bruce Klingner North Korea's Deceptive Charm Offensive

    North Korea surprised everyone last weekend with its decision to send a senior delegation to the closing ceremonies of the Asian Games in South Korea. As recently as April, after all, Pyongyang threatened to incinerate Seoul, Tokyo and Washington with nuclear weapons. In the months since, North Korea has been relatively quiescent, content to issue daily diatribes against…

  • Commentary posted October 10, 2014 by Bruce Klingner Where in the World is Kim Jong Un?

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has not been seen in public for more than a month, generating speculation that his absence is due to failing health or political intrigue. Given the paucity of information, keeping track of Kim is tougher than winning at three-card monte, and the stakes are much higher: the potential instability of a nuclear-armed nation. After Kim's…

  • Issue Brief posted September 17, 2014 by Bruce Klingner U.S. Should Seek Release of Detainees in North Korea—Without Policy Concessions

    North Korea has sentenced Matthew Miller, a 20-year-old American tourist, to six years of hard labor for attempted espionage. Miller reportedly ripped up his tourist visa and declared he wanted asylum but Pyongyang accused him of intending to “experience prison life so that he could investigate the human rights situation” in North Korea. The regime is also holding Jeffrey…

  • Backgrounder posted August 7, 2014 by Bruce Klingner The U.S. and South Korea Should Focus on Improving Alliance Capabilities Rather Than the OPCON Transition

    If hostilities break out between North Korea and South Korea (ROK), the current agreement between Washington and Seoul would put all ROK forces under control of the bilateral Combined Forces Command (CFC), which is led by a U.S. general. During armistice,[1] the government of South Korea controls its military forces, while the U.S. controls all U.S. and international…

  • Commentary posted July 17, 2014 by Bruce Klingner Asia's Big Fear: Is America Emboldening China and North Korea?

    While world attention has focused on crises in Syria, Crimea and the Middle East, the security situation in Asia has deteriorated. As North Korea pursues another of its periodic charm offensives, it appears quiescent. Yet the regime continues to refine its nuclear strike capability. It is only a matter of time before Pyongyang resumes its escalatory, provocative behavior.…

  • Backgrounder posted June 3, 2014 by Bruce Klingner Allies Should Confront Imminent North Korean Nuclear Threat

    Experts predominantly assess that North Korea has developed several nuclear devices, but not yet mastered the ability to miniaturize a warhead or deliver it via missile. Media reports habitually declare that North Korean missiles cannot yet reach the United States. Based on this benign conclusion, policymakers presume the United States and its allies still have several…

  • Testimony posted April 2, 2014 by Bruce Klingner North Korea: Sanctions, Nuclear and Missile Threat

    Testimony before Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific of the Foreign Affairs Committee United States House of Representatives My name is Bruce Klingner. I am the Senior Research Fellow for Northeast Asia at The Heritage Foundation. The views I express in this testimony are my own, and should not be construed as representing any official position of The Heritage…

  • Issue Brief posted February 20, 2014 by Bruce Klingner U.S. Should Augment Sanctions After North Korean Crimes Against Humanity

    A United Nations Commission of Inquiry issued a damning condemnation of the North Korea government for “systemic, widespread, and gross violations of human rights.” The commission concluded that the human rights abuses were of such a monumental scale as to constitute crimes against humanity. The panel recommended referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for…

  • Issue Brief posted February 19, 2014 by Bruce Klingner Obama Needs to Send Strong Message to Allies During Asia Trip

    President Obama correctly decided—apparently after some deliberation—to include South Korea on the itinerary for his trip to Asia in April, thus avoiding straining relations with a key ally. Seoul and Tokyo are again embroiled in a flare-up of tensions over sensitive historical issues that risk undermining U.S. security interests in Asia. Had Obama traveled only to Japan,…

  • Backgrounder posted December 20, 2013 by Bruce Klingner The U.S. Should Support Japan’s Enhanced Security Role

    The United States has long urged its allies to assume more responsibility for their defense and for common security threats. Specifically, Washington has asked its allies, in Europe and Asia alike, to increase their defense expenditures, accept new missions, and develop new military capabilities. While some allies have tried to meet Washington’s challenge, Japan’s ability…

  • Issue Brief posted December 17, 2013 by Bruce Klingner Time for Japan to Fulfill Commitment on U.S. Marine Base on Okinawa

    Long-overdue progress on relocating a U.S. Marine Corps air station within Okinawa hinges on a forthcoming decision by the island’s governor. Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima is poised to decide whether to issue a land reclamation permit to enable construction on the Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF). Local opposition has long stymied efforts to implement the now nearly…