Stories by Ryan Hass

Expert Voices

The high-stakes gamble of reducing troops on the Korean Peninsula

North Korean soldiers look at the South Korean side on the border between North and South Korea on October 27, 2017.
North Korean soldiers look at the South side of the border between North and South Korea on October 27, 2017. Photo: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty Images

Weeks before his planned summit with Kim Jong-un, President Trump reportedly pushed the Pentagon to consider reducing troop numbers in South Korea, reflecting his long-held conviction that the U.S. shouldn't subsidize other countries’ defense needs.

Why it matters: While Trump clarified that a drawdown was for future, not immediate, consideration, these reports could influence Kim's pre-summit calculations: If Trump seems eager at the outset to achieve peace and declare success by promising withdrawal, Kim might feel less pressure to sacrifice his primary leverage — his nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. 

Expert Voices

Trump's North Korea strategy faces growing diplomatic deficits

Joseph Yun and fellow diplomats
Joseph Yun (L) with South Korean and Japanese diplomatic counterparts. Photo: Toru Yamanaka / AFP / Pool / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

The resignation of Joseph Yun, the State Department’s Special Representative for North Korea policy, this week serves as a fresh reminder of the gaping hole at the center of America’s North Korea strategy: the absence of a credible diplomatic approach to talking — and eventually negotiating — with North Korea.

Why it matters: There are no guarantees that entering into dialogue with North Korea would yield progress. In fact, the past record gives little cause for optimism. Even so, there are other reasons for the United States to seize diplomatic initiative.

Expert Voices

Signs of progress in Trump's North Korea pressure campaign

Kim Jong-un with soldiers and artillery
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un presiding over a target strike exercise conducted by the special operation forces of the Korean People's Army (KPA) at an undisclosed location. Photo: AFP / KCNA via KNS / Getty Images

Even as fears of open conflict have increased in recent months, the Trump administration has in fact made strides in its strategy against North Korea.

The North Korean economy is contracting, trade volume with China is plummeting and economic ties with other key trading partners are being systematically dismantled. Kim Jong-un no longer boasts that his people will not need to “tighten their belts,” as he pledged upon assuming power. North Korean news services complain that sanctions are hurting and anecdotal reports also suggest growing disillusionment with Kim’s economic stewardship.