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Event Summary

As John Kerry’s first trip to Asia as secretary of state comes to a close, a panel of experts gathered at AEI to discuss the volatile situation on the Korean Peninsula. AEI’s Nicholas Eberstadt and Bruce Klingner of the Heritage Foundation highlighted the dynamics in North Korea and South Korea, respectively, that the US should take into account in managing current tensions.

Eberstadt focused on the palace politics within North Korea and urged US leaders to avoid negotiations that would legitimize the regime and allow Kim Jong-un to save face. Klingner explained how this crisis might be different for South Korea, outlining a variety of reasons why the country is more likely than it was in the past to respond militarily to the North.

The other three panelists offered several options for next steps. Dan Blumenthal of AEI suggested labeling North Korea as a “primary money laundering concern,” as the George W. Bush administration did in the early 2000s. Not only would this help the US squeeze the North Korean government financially, but it would also have the added benefit of providing incentives for China to be more cooperative on this issue.

Abe Denmark of the National Bureau of Asian Research emphasized close coordination with US allies —South Korea in particular — to maintain a united front in response to North Korea. Finally, AEI’s Thomas Donnelly stressed that while America’s policy toward North Korea will be reactive by default, the US reacts in ways unforeseeable to North Korea.
–Lara Crouch

Event Description

Over the past several weeks, North Korea has voided the Korean War Armistice Agreement, threatened the United States with nuclear attack, warned foreigners to leave the Korean Peninsula, and launched a cyber attack on South Korean banks and broadcasters. With tensions at their highest in years, the Obama administration has vacillated in its response to Kim Jong-un’s bluster, on the one hand relying on shows of force to deter the North and reassure US allies, while on the other professing a possibly conflicting desire to pursue de-escalation.

What are the internal political dynamics in Pyongyang? How likely is North Korea to carry out an armed provocation, and what are the prospects for war? Is American strategy properly tailored to deal with the challenge of a nuclear North Korea? Join us for a panel discussion of these and other important questions.


If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.


9:15 AM

9:30 AM
Dan Blumenthal, AEI
Abraham M. Denmark, National Bureau of Asian Research
Thomas Donnelly, AEI
Nicholas Eberstadt, AEI
Bruce Klingner, Heritage Foundation

Michael Mazza, AEI

11:00 AM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Lara Crouch at [email protected], 202.862.7160.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact Véronique Rodman at [email protected], 202.862.4871.

Speaker Biographies

Dan Blumenthal is the director of Asian Studies at AEI, where he focuses on East Asian security issues and Sino-American relations. He is also a founding board member of the Alexander Hamilton Society, and serves on the boards of the Project 2049 Institute and the US-Taiwan Business Council. He recently became a research associate at the National Asia Research Program, a joint undertaking of the National Bureau of Asian Research and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He served on the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission from 2005 to 2012 and has been a member of the academic advisory board for the congressional US-China Working Group. During George W. Bush’s first administration, Blumenthal was the senior director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia in the secretary of defense’s Office of International Security Affairs. Blumenthal is the coauthor of “An Awkward Embrace: The United States and China in the 21st Century” (AEI Press, November 2012). He has authored articles and op-eds for The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, National Review, as well as for numerous edited volumes, including “Strategic Asia 2012-2013” by the National Bureau of Asian Research.

Abraham M. Denmark is vice president for political and security affairs at the National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR). Denmark manages several NBR research programs on political and security issues in Asia and works directly with NBR’s network of experts to bring objective, detailed analyses of geopolitical trends and challenges in Asia to the attention of policymakers in Washington, DC. He regularly travels throughout the Asia-Pacific region for research and to develop NBR’s network. He was previously a fellow at the Center for a New American Security and served in the Pentagon as country director for China affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Denmark is widely published, having authored several book chapters and reports on US strategy toward the Asia-Pacific region and the global commons. He has been featured in major media outlets in the United States and Asia, including National Public Radio, the Financial Times, Foreign Policy, the Global Times, World Affairs, Washington Quarterly, the US Naval War College Review, Newsweek, Time, and The New York Times. Denmark regularly lectures at leading universities and learning centers around the world, including Peking University and the US Naval War College. Denmark also serves as an Asia-Pacific security adviser at the Center for Naval Analyses and is a Sasakawa Peace Foundation Nonresident Fellow at Center for Strategic and International Studies-Pacific Forum. He is a member of the National Committee on United States–China Relations, the US Naval Institute, and the International Institute for Strategic Studies. He has received several awards and was named a 21st Century Leader by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy.

Thomas Donnelly
is a defense and security policy analyst and codirector of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at AEI. He is the coauthor, with Frederick W. Kagan, of “Lessons for a Long War: How America Can Win on New Battlefields” (AEI Press, 2010). Among his recent books are “Ground Truth: The Future of U.S. Land Power” (AEI Press, 2008), also coauthored with Frederick W. Kagan; “Of Men and Materiel: The Crisis in Military Resources” (AEI Press, 2007), coedited with Gary J. Schmitt; “The Military We Need” (AEI Press, 2005); and “Operation Iraqi Freedom: A Strategic Assessment” (AEI Press, 2004). From 1995 to 1999, he was policy group director and a professional staff member for the US House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services. Donnelly also served as a member of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission. He is a former editor of Armed Forces Journal, Army Times, and Defense News.

Nicholas Eberstadt
holds the Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy at AEI and is senior adviser to the National Bureau of Asian Research in Seattle. A political economist and demographer by training, Eberstadt has published over 400 articles and studies, mainly on issues in demography, development, and international security in a wide range of popular and scholarly journals. He has also authored or edited some 20 books and monographs, including “Poverty in China” (1979), “The Tyranny of Numbers” (1995), “The End of North Korea” (1999), and “Russia’s Peacetime Demographic Crisis” (2010).  His most recent book is “A Nation of Takers: America’s Entitlement Epidemic” (2012). Eberstadt has served inter alia on the President’s Council on Bioethics, the Board of Scientific Counselors of the National Center for Health Statistics, and the Global Agenda Council of the World Economic Forum. He is a founding director of the US Committee for Human Rights in North Korea. In 2012, Eberstadt was awarded the prestigious Bradley Prize.

Bruce Klingner
is the senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center. Klingner joined Heritage in 2007 after 20 years in the intelligence community, during which time he worked at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Defense Intelligence Agency. In 1993, he was selected chief of the CIA’s Korea Branch, which provided analytic reports on military developments during the nuclear crisis with North Korea. From 1996 to 2001, Klingner was the deputy chief for Korea in the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence, where he was responsible for analyzing Korean political, military, economic, and leadership issues for the president and other senior policymakers. Klingner also spent several years at the Eurasia Group, a global political risk assessment firm. Previously, he worked as the director of analysis and senior Asia analyst at the Intellibridge Corporation, which provided intelligence and analysis to government and business decision makers. His articles have appeared in numerous American and international publications, including the Financial Times, Chosun Ilbo, Far Eastern Economic Review, Nikkei Weekly, and Asia Times.

Michael Mazza is a research fellow in Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at AEI, where he studies US defense policy in the Asia-Pacific region, Chinese military modernization, cross-Strait relations, and Korean peninsular security. Apart from writing regularly for the AEIdeas blog, he is also the program manager of AEI’s annual Executive Program on National Security Policy and Strategy. At AEI, Mazza has contributed to studies on American grand strategy in Asia, US defense strategy in Asia, and Taiwanese defense strategy. He has lived and studied in China. Mazza has written op-eds for The Wall Street Journal Asia, The Los Angeles Times, National Review Online,, The Weekly Standard, and the American.

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