The division of Korea is one of the unresolved legacies of the Cold War. North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes have been in the focus of international security politics since the mid-1980s. Pyongyang threatens its neighbours Japan and South Korea. Since it successfully tested long-range missiles tests in 2017, North Korea may also be able to directly target the American mainland and Europe. North Korea challenges the international order, for example by defying United Nations Security Council Resolutions and undermining multilateral non-proliferation regimes.
Efforts to resolve the North Korea conflict should not be reduced to addressing Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes. The conflict has multiple layers, both in terms of content and structure. North Korea’s foreign policy behaviour poses a challenge for the international community. The regime in Pyongyang commits serious human rights violations. The nuclear conflict is linked to the unresolved issue of Korean division and to Sino-American geopolitical rivalry.
This dossier complements the SWP Research Paper Facets of the North Korea Conflict: Actors, Problems and Europe’s Interests. The contributions contained in the study, as well as further SWP analyses, can be found in the sections on the Korean Peninsula, Regional Perspectives and Global Challenges. The chapter entitled Further Reading contains a selection of documents, databases, chronologies and references to institutions with a special focus on North Korea. Short bibliographies, arranged by topic, provide an overview of additional relevant publications.