Background Information and Data
The United States and North Korea have had a rocky relationship since the Korean War erupted in 1950. During that war, the US sent troops to fight on behalf of South Korea and the two countries have been in a state of near-constant tension ever since. The US does not have formal diplomatic ties with North Korea although it does have some indirect and unofficial relations with the country. However, in recent years, there have been signs of an opening in the relationship, with the two countries engaging in a series of high-level summits, the most recent of which was held in Singapore in 2018. During the summit, President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a document agreeing to a path towards denuclearization, something which had eluded the two countries for many years.
In addition, the two countries are engaged in a series of cultural and economic exchanges which suggest a gradual thawing in relations. US citizens have been able to travel to North Korea since 2016, albeit with the permission of the US State Department. Meanwhile, the US has sent several high-level envoys to Pyongyang to discuss possible economic and political openings between the two countries. Despite this, there is still no formal alliance between the United States and North Korea.
Perspectives of Experts
In an interview with the Washington Post, Suzanne DiMaggio, a senior fellow at the think tank New America, said: “We must remember that North Korea is still a totalitarian state, and human rights is the main issue that has kept many from considering a shift from sanctions to engagement. North Korea still does not even grant its own people fundamental rights.” This suggests that for any alliance to be formed, major advances in North Korea’s policy regarding human rights would need to be made.
In a separate interview with NPR, Bruce Klingner, an expert on fears of war on the Korean peninsula and a former deputy division chief in the Central Intelligence Agency, said: “We can look at the Singapore summit and various diplomatic agreements as steps towards reconciliation with North Korea, but the United States and North Korea remain very far apart both politically and militarily. The two powers are not in any way close to forming an alliance at this time.”
Analysis and Insights
At present, there does not appear to be a significant desire on either side of the political divide for a formal alliance between the United States and North Korea. The human rights situation in North Korea remains poor, the country is still subjected to a range of international sanctions, and the two countries remain at loggerheads over a number of issues related to nuclear materials, missile tests, and the threat of military action.
However, it seems that a more cooperative relationship between the United States and North Korea is slowly taking shape. The two countries are engaging in dialogue and cultural exchange, and President Trump and Kim Jong Un have both made positive commitments towards denuclearization. In this context, it is not unfeasible to imagine a future in which the US and North Korea have a closer, more open relationship.
The potential formation of an alliance between the United States and North Korea carries with it significant geopolitical implications. The two powers wield significant influence in East Asia, and an alliance between them could alter the balance of power in the region. For example, an alliance could embolden both nations and lessen the threat of military confrontation, allowing them to focus on joint efforts such as the alleviation of poverty and the improvement of human rights. At the same time, an alliance could destabilize the region by making rival Asian nations less secure.
It is also important to note that the potential for an alliance hinges on the level of success achieved by the current diplomatic efforts. The current dialogue between the US and North Korea is a step in the right direction, but any alliance between the two countries is some way off.
The possibility of an alliance between the US and North Korea carries with it attention-grabbing economic prospects. In theory, the two countries could work together to develop a range of industries, reducing the long-term reliance on foreign imports and creating an economic boost for both nations.
However, economic opportunities between the two countries are limited at present. North Korea is still subjected to wide-ranging international sanctions, and many of the world’s major players, including the US, view North Korea as an unreliable partner.
The prospect of an alliance between the US and North Korea is certainly a provocative one, and the two countries would need to carefully consider the potential military implications. On the one hand, the two powers could unite their militaries to form a powerful security force, allowing them to better guarantee the safety and stability of the region. On the other hand, an alliance could embolden North Korea, leading to a regional arms race as neighbouring countries attempt to counter the new, powerful alliance.
It is worth noting that the US is already allied with South Korea, and thus a US-North Korea alliance could create a tense situation in the region. South Korea is currently attempting to re-engage with their northern neighbours in an attempt to ease tension on the peninsula, but any sudden shift in US policy towards North Korea could have the opposite effect.
If an alliance were to be formed between the United States and North Korea, it is likely to be an uneasy one. The two countries are ideologically very different, and it is unlikely that North Korea would be willing to deviate too far from its current course. It is also worth noting that North Korea’s political system is far from democratic. This is not to say that an alliance between the two countries is impossible, but it will require a high level of compromise and negotiation for both sides.
The strong ideological differences between the two countries mean that any potential alliance will be highly contentious and difficult to maintain. The two countries have a long history of animosity, mistrust and misunderstanding and any attempts to forge closer ties must be conducted in a considered and respectful manner.