March 22, 2020

Breakthrough or Crisis? How Will Coronavirus Impact Tensions with North Korea?

By Duyeon Kim

The novel coronavirus pandemic has accelerated geopolitical tensions first in Northeast Asia, with the original outbreak in China, and now around the world as the United States, Europe and many others battle their own epidemics and global markets spiral downward. Leaders among the big powers—particularly the US, China, and Russia—already trying to exploit this global crisis to gain advantage and exert power instead of coming together to fight a common threat. This climate adds another layer of uncertainty over the Korean Peninsula where an authoritarian leader is trying to exert his power at a time when every world leader is preoccupied with the viral disease that is simultaneously testing their leadership and competence.

The pandemic in the context of intensified US-China competition — have complicated an already challenging diplomatic and security situation on the Korean Peninsula this year. Prospects for diplomacy on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program are now even poorer as key capitals will be in coronavirus crisis management mode for the next several months, as they should, and consumed with geopolitics and geo-economics. Dealing with traditional long-standing security issues regarding the Korean Peninsula, including nuclear diplomacy, will be put on hold at least until key stakeholders–the US, South Korea, China, and Japan–are able to manage the current pandemic with more ease.

Read the full article in The National Interest.

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