North Korea and America 2021: What Comes Next?


No matter who wins the White House come November 3rd, either Donald Trump or Joe Biden will have no choice but to make critical choices when it comes to North Korea, the threat its weapons of mass destruction and missile programs pose to the United States and its allies, and the policies Washington could pursue to contain and hopefully eliminate them. 

What options does the next administration have considering the present state of Pyongyang’s various weapons of mass destruction programs? Has North Korea gone so far down the nuclear road that containment or acceptance is the only viable option, employing arms control to lessen—but not eliminate—the threat? Is a strict adherence to denuclearization the best choice, with so-called “maximum pressure” sanctions continually tightening if Pyongyang will not give up its nuclear program and missiles? How would North Korea respond to any of this? 

To answer all of this and more, the Center for the National Interest gathered a world-class panel of experts for a webinar discussion hosted on Thursday, September 10. These proceedings were initated by a keynote address from Bill Richardson (a long-time North Korea watcher who has negotiated directly with the regime on countless occasions to secure the release of Americans held there) describing his own vision for a future North Korea policy. Richardson served as  a U.S. Congressman (1982-1996), U. S. Ambassador to the United Nations (1997-1998), and Secretary of Energy under President Bill Clinton (1998-2000).

Panelists included the following experts: 

– Jessica J. Lee, a Senior Research Fellow in the East Asia Program at the Quincy Institute. She began her career in Washington as a staff member on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and has also led a national Korean American leadership organization. 

LT. General Wallace Gregson (US Marines, Retired), Senior Director of the China and the Pacific Program at the Center for the National Interest, former Assistant Secretary of Defense, former head of U.S. Marines in the Pacific.

Daryl Press, Associate Professor of Government, Dartmouth University. He is the author of Calculating Credibility: How Leaders Assess Military Threats, a book on credibility and decision-making during military crises.

Harry J. Kazianis, Senior Director of Korean Studies at the Center for the National Interest, served as the moderator for the event.