North Korea (DPRK)

The relationship between the U.S. and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) proved even more volatile in 2017, with rash decisions and name-calling by leaders of both sides. There was renewed focus on the meaning of nuclear deterrence and authorization to use military force, in Congress and the administration.

President Trump issued an executive order in August outlining travel restrictions for U.S. citizens visiting North Korea. Concerned this would hamper humanitarian efforts, MCC wrote a letter to the State Department expressing the value of building relationships in DPRK despite political hostilities. Thus far, our travel requests for project monitoring have been approved. In addition to restricting U.S. citizens from visiting North Korea, people from North Korea were included in the latest version of the “travel ban,” further affecting the ability of North Koreans to travel to the U.S.

Recently, bipartisan legislation was introduced in the House and Senate to ensure that military action cannot be taken against North Korea without congressional approval. The No Unconstitutional Strike Against North Korea Act has more than 60 co-sponsors in the House.

Convincing the administration that dialogue with North Korea is not a “reward,” but the only way to find a peaceable solution to nuclear stand-off is paramount. We continue to suggest creative ways the U.S. might engage North Korea, including through people-to-people exchanges; however, the current travel restrictions for North Koreans and U.S. citizens make this challenging.

Despite many tense moments throughout the year, there are still off-ramps that both governments can take to avoid further confrontation. We continue to advocate for diplomatic solutions to reduce tensions, working to find issues of common interest that could allow both countries to take small steps towards engagement. –Charissa Zehr