Was it a hydrogen bomb? A garden-variety nuclear test? No one is quite sure just yet what North Korea is up to. What is certain is that something happened—on January 5 at 7:30 p.m. CST seismic monitors picked up a rumbling in the northeastern corner of North Korea. Measured at a magnitude of 5.1, the size and location align with previous nuclear tests conducted by the North Korean regime.
Confirmation of the type of test that was conducted should be forthcoming. Japan scrambled aircraft to collect dust samples from the air to look for radioactive materials. The resulting analysis may identify the type of material used in the test as well as the nature of the test.
We have, of course, seen this all before. There were three previous tests, each time creating an international outcry, emergency meetings of the UN Security Council, resolutions, and sanctions. All of this has amounted to little. North Korea continues to develop its nuclear weapons program and avoid the harshest (PDF) of sanctions.
For the American public, North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is seen as a threat, but it is not the most immediate. In the 2015 Chicago Council Survey, 55 percent cited the North’s nuclear weapons program as a critical threat. That ranked it 8th out of a possible 20. Solidly mid-table.
What is more interesting is what the American public favors in dealing with that threat. The most supported option is to continue diplomatic efforts to get North Korea to suspend its nuclear program. It is important to note the subtlety of wording here. The response option does not state that diplomatic efforts should aim to denuclearize North Korea. A suspension of the program would be the first step to a hopeful denuclearization.
The least popular option for the American public is to simply allow North Korea to continue to produce additional nuclear weapons. Imagine that. Americans, at least in the hypothetical, would favor airstrikes or sending in US ground troops into North Korea over what is essentially accepting North Korea as a nuclear-armed state.
Of course, most Americans have the luxury—for now—of being out of range of North Korea’s missiles. South Koreans do not have that luxury. Yet, life goes on as normal in Seoul in the wake of attacks, nuclear tests, and missile tests. (While the linked article is from 2013, it remains evergreen.) The only change is that attitudes and policy toward North Korea will further harden. As this report by the Asan Institute in Seoul makes clear [full disclosure: I am a coauthor] this has taken place among all age cohorts. Any fledgling cooperation between the two Koreas is now removed from the table, and the cycle of provocation and rapprochement continues on.
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights critical shifts in American public thinking on US foreign policy through public opinion surveys and research conducted under the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy.
The annual Chicago Council Survey, first conducted in 1974, is a valuable resource for policymakers, academics, media, and the general public. The Council also surveys American leaders in government, business, academia, think tanks, and religious organizations biennially to compare trends in their thinking with overall trends. And collaborating with partner organizations, the survey team periodically conducts parallel surveys of public opinion in other regions of the world to compare with US public opinion.
The Running Numbers blog features regular commentary and analysis from the Council’s public opinion and US foreign policy research team, including a series of flash polls of a select group of foreign policy experts to assess their opinions on critical foreign policy topics driving the news.
Opinion in Northern Ireland is polarized amid Brexit negotiations.
The United Kingdom remains split on Brexit as Parliament is suspended amid tumultuous backlash.
How are Americans reacting to the US-China trade war?
Mexicans have a far more negative views of Trump than of the United States or the US-Mexico relationship.
Amid the protests and violence in Hong Kong, a recent survey reveals differences in opinions between younger and older age groups as well as between more and less educated people living in Hong Kong.
Mexican attitudes towards Central American migrants are changing as the dispute between the US and Mexico over how to handle the migration issue continues.
Relations between Japan and South Korea are in freefall, with the two key US allies in Asia engaged in a steadily escalating economic conflict.
The United States has long been the tops arms supplier in the world. Yet public opinion data shows that Americans aren’t fans of U.S. arms sales.
Most Americans believe that respect and admiration for the United States are instrumental in achieving US foreign policy goals. But a new poll finds publics in the Middle East and North Africa continue to view the United States unfavorably.
At the June 25-26 Bahrain Peace to Prosperity Workshop, Jared Kushner presented the first component of a U.S. peace plan for the Middle East. But how does this plan sit with the Palestinian public?
Approval rates for Moon Jae-in are sliding, but his North Korea policy is not one of primary drivers.
In early February 2019, the United States withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty following President Trump’s October 2018 (and the Obama administration’s July 2014) accusations that Russia was failing to comply with the treaty. Russia withdrew from the treaty the next day.
Findings from a February 2019 Chicago Council on Global Affairs general public survey and a December 2018 Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) survey of International Relations (IR) scholars around the world illustrate how these different populations perceive the collapse of the INF Treaty.
The foreign policy elite and the general public have long viewed the potential threat of China very differently. That gap may may now be in decline.
Despite expectations for the meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, their recent summit in Hanoi ended with no agreement toward denuclearization. With that in mind, we asked our panel of foreign policy experts whether the United States should continue to focus primarily on denuclearization, or shift to arms control and non-proliferation.
The Council’s Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy is launching a series of flash polls to share expert insights on policy debates driving today's news.