North Korea 2021: Corona is just one out of many political challenges

A new U.S. administration, important strategic decisions at the North Korean party congress, an emerging major conflict between the U.S. and China, a slowly approaching end of the Corona pandemic: Numerous events taking place in 2021 make it necessary to take a closer look at the situation in and around North Korea and to venture an outlook. In early 2020, right at the beginning of the corona pandemic, North Korea closed its borders. Since then there were hardly any diplomatic contacts worth mentioning. As a result, it is now even harder to assess what is going on in the country and what its leadership is planning. There is no lack of tensions, and there is a variety of factors, determining the options and limits for diplomatic solutions.

The report summarizes the key decisions of the North Korean Party Congress in early 2021 and identifies seven key factors. The global political dimension is evident in the network of relations presented. In addition to the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and the Corona pandemic play other major roles.

The resulting outlook gives little cause for optimism, because an improvement in the situation or even a solution to the conflict currently seem a long way off. The different interests of the parties involved can hardly be reconciled, because the goals with their underlying strategies are also too different: The U.S. and North Korea are worlds apart, and China isn’t uncomfortable with the existing status quo of the Korean issue.

Real progress may require a new U.S. approach that accepts North Korea as a nuclear power, at least for now. It would rely less on China's willingness to cooperate, but even such an approach would be highly risky and without any guarantee of success.

The hermetic closure of borders, North Korea's domestic hardening and the diametrically opposed interests of all parties involved: Signs of hope are currently extremely rare.

You can find the original German version of this publication here:!/Publikation/1038