Updated Jan 31, 2018

Signs of progress in Trump's North Korea pressure campaign

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.

As sanctions shrink the sources of national revenue, Kim will have to choose between funding his nuclear and missile programs, paying his military and security services, or buying off the country's elite. When this becomes the case, Kim’s survival instincts will likely compel him to prioritize the loyalty of North Korea’s elite and its security services, which in turn will slow nuclear and missile advances and create space for diplomacy.

The bottom line: The pressure campaign is making headway and deserves more time to work. Enforcement of U.S. and international sanctions can still be enhanced on North Korea and its enablers, and countries should continue to be urged to sever economic ties with Pyongyang. The more the international community is united and the Kim regime is under internal stress, the higher the likelihood of a peaceful diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff.

Ryan Hass is a David M. Rubenstein Fellow in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings.

Go deeper

Tech can't remember what to do in a down market

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Wall Street's two-day-old coronavirus crash is a wakeup alarm for Silicon Valley.

The big picture: Tech has been booming for so long the industry barely remembers what a down market feels like — and most companies are ill-prepared for one.

Brace yourself for a coronavirus outbreak

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Public-health officials’ warnings about the coronavirus are sounding increasingly urgent, with one top CDC official asking the public yesterday "to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad."

Reality check: Other administration officials, including President Trump himself, were more subdued in their assessments. But underneath those tonal differences, the reality of the coronavirus is the same: It spreads quickly, and has already spread to many countries, making it likely to start spreading here, too.

Exclusive: Pro-Trump group plans post-Super Tuesday blitz on Democrats

Democratic presidential hopefuls take the debate stage in South Carolina. Photo: Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images

Pro-Trump super PAC America First Action is preparing to unleash a series of targeted, swing-state attacks on the Democrats most likely to face President Trump after Super Tuesday, people familiar with the group's plans tell me in an exclusive preview of its strategy.

The state of play: The group has been tracking favorable/unfavorable ratings in Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania for 2020 candidates Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Michael Bloomberg — under the theory that if Trump wins each of these six states he would win re-election.