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Why North Korea matters for the 2024 US election | Brookings

Why North Korea matters for the 2024 US election | Brookings
The expected rematch between Biden and Trump presents a contrast in how they address North Korea and its nuclear program in a second term.

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As the 2024 U.S. elections approach, presidential candidates Joe Biden and Donald Trump will need to address escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula and U.S.-North Korea relations. North Korea has adopted a more offensive nuclear doctrine and strengthened political ties with Russia and China since the collapse of the Hanoi Summit in February 2019. The expected rematch between Biden and Trump presents a contrast in how the two candidates might address North Korea and its nuclear program in a second term. Both candidates want to project strength and confidence, but their approaches to North Korea differ. Pyongyang’s unwillingness to relinquish its nuclear weapons limits the range of policies available to the United States, forcing the next administration to be flexible and disciplined when approaching the North Korea problem. The top priority for the next U.S. administration is halting, if not reversing, progress in the regime’s nuclear and weapons programs. Both candidates should consider building a wider coalition of partners willing to monitor North Korea’s illicit activity, seek common ground with Beijing, and consistently advocate for North Korean human rights. Trump may raise the issue of North Korea on the campaign trail given his previous engagement with Kim during two high-profile summits. Biden can point to his administration’s ability to closely coordinate policy with U.S. allies to ensure that deterrence is maintained on the peninsula despite North Korea’s escalatory actions. Despite the differing approaches, Kim may insert himself into the conversation by escalating tensions prior to the U.S. elections if he believes such actions offer an advantage to Trump, his preferred candidate. Both candidates must consistently advocate for North Korean human rights, including enhancing North Koreans’ access to information. The Kim regime remains resilient for now, but its legitimacy could be challenged down the road by disgruntled elites in the wake of internal or external challenges, particularly if Kim’s health deteriorates and succession plans for the fourth generation of Kim rule are unclear or contested.

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