Joel S. Wit

Senior Fellow and Director

38 North

Joel S. Wit is a Senior Fellow with Stimson and Director of 38 North. Wit is an internationally recognized expert on Northeast Asia security issues. As a U.S. State Department official, he helped negotiate the 1994 US-DPRK Agreed Framework and was subsequently in charge of its implementation until he left government in 2002, holding countless talks with North Korean officials, including the military and nuclear establishments. Wit served as a Senior Fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies US-Korea Institute from 2007-2018, a Senior Fellow at CSIS from 2002-2006. He has previously served a consultant to the National Academy of Science and an Adjunct Senior Researcher at Columbia University’s Weatherhead Institute for Asian Studies. Wit is a co-author (with Robert Gallucci and Daniel Poneman) of Going Critical: The First North Korea Nuclear Crisis, the winner of the American Academy of Diplomacy’s 2004 prize for best book. He has written extensively in publications ranging from Foreignpolicy.com to the New York Times and is a regular expert guest on television shows (e.g. PBS Newshour, CNN’s The Situation Room and BBC) and radio (e.g. National Public Radio and BBC Radio).

Projects

Informed Analysis of North Korea: 38 North provides high-quality research, analysis and commentary on a broad range of topics related to North Korea

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Stimson in the News
Joel Wit cited in article about the possibility of a return to North Korea ‘provocations’ following their year-end deadline

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun said on Wednesday a year-end deadline North Korea has set for Washington to show more flexibility in nuclear talks was an artificial one, but could mean a return to “prov…

Commentary
We All Live On a Red Submarine

Just when you thought the media hyperinflation of the North Korean threat couldn’t get any worse, along came yesterday’s attention-grabbing story on Pyongyang’s submarine that could attack the United States. To their credit, most outlets haven’t covere…

Commentary
The Trump-Kim Meeting Was Great TV. It Was Also Something Much More Important.

With his visit to the Demilitarized Zone, the president is opening the door for real negotiations. President Trump’s 50-minute-long meeting on Sunday with Kim Jong-un, leader of North Korea, in the Korean Peninsula’s Demilitarized Zone was, i…

Commentary
Memo to Donald Trump: It’s Time to End-Run Your Advisers on North Korea

This article is a reprint of Joel Wit and Richard Sokolsky’s op-ed originally published in The National Interest on May 19, 2019. It is reprinted by 38 North with kind permission. Dear President Donald Trump, The United States and North Korea…

Stimson in the News
Op-ed by Joel Wit and Richard Sokolsky on the US-North Korean relations and next steps

Dear President Donald Trump, The United States and North Korea are once again locked in a diplomatic standoff over denuclearization and the normalization of U.S.-North Korean relations, which has unfortunately brought to a screeching halt the very prom…

Policy Paper
A Snapshot of North Korea’s Supply Chain Coal Activity

Stimson Center’s 38 North project, in partnership with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), has created a snapshot of the DPRK’s coal industry published on Tearline, the NGA’s open source publishing platform. The platform was created…

Stimson in the News
Joel Wit Quoted in Reuters Article About NK’s Missile Testing

Trump says he would be disappointed if North Korea resumed testing   WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday he would be disappointed if Pyongyang were to resume weapons testing and reiterated his belief in his good relat…

Commentary
The Leap Day Deal: A Cautionary Tale for the Trump Administration

The past few days have been filled with reports that North Korea is rebuilding partially dismantled facilities at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station (Tongchang-ri) and speculation that it might be preparing to renew testing of intercontinental balli…

Stimson in the News
Joel Wit Quoted in AP article on North Korea’s Rebuilding of Structures at Rock Site

North Korea said to be rebuilding structures at rocket site SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea is restoring facilities at a long-range rocket launch site that it dismantled last year as part of disarmament steps, according to foreign experts and a S…

Stimson in the News
Joel Wit Discusses The Reassembling of a North Korea Rocket Test Site on NPR

North Korea Reassembles Rocket Test Site, Satellite Images Show March 6, 2019 7:20 AM ET Heard on Morning Edition Listen to the full story on NPR.

Policy Paper
What Happened in Hanoi?

We now know that President Trump is not only a practitioner of the “madman theory” of international politics but also at the negotiating table. It’s ironic that while most pundits and the media kept up a steady drumbeat that he was going to give away t…

Stimson in the News
Joel Wit Comments on North Korea’s Unconventional Strategy

It’s certainly unconventional. But is it working? Trump’s North Korea strategy wins over some experts. HANOI — When President Trump boasts of his wonderful relationship with North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un, or claims that there would…

Commentary
A How-To Guide for Disabling and Dismantling Yongbyon

With another summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un scheduled for February 27-28 in Vietnam, the potential dismantlement of North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center looms as a first step towards de…

Stimson in the News
Joel Wit quoted in article on Trump to meet North Korean Leader later in the month

Trump To Meet With North Korea’s Leader Later This Month DAVID GREENE, HOST: In his State of the Union speech this week, President Trump announced a second North Korea summit. (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING) PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Much work remains…

Commentary
Let’s Get Perspective

Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence, made big news this week with a series of assertions about North Korea that appeared to contradict President Trump’s policy of engaging Pyongyang. Yes, they were interesting. But anyone who thought the c…

Stimson in the News
Op-ed by Joel Wit on Leading America’s 1st Nuclear Inspection In North Korea

Opinion: What I Learned Leading America’s 1st Nuclear Inspection In North Korea With a second summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expected in late February, one crucial question looms large: Will Kim give up his nuclear w…

Stimson in the News
Joel Wit quoted in article about a long history of talks between US and North Korean Spies

U.S. and North Korean Spies Have Held Secret Talks for a Decade WASHINGTON—U.S. intelligence officials have met with North Korean counterparts secretly for a decade, a covert channel that allowed communications during tense times, aided in the release…

Stimson in the News
Joel Wit and 38 North Contributor Robert Carlin quoted in article about confusion over North Korea’s meaning of denuclearization

SEOUL — It is one of the central questions in the negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear program: What does Kim Jong Un want in return for giving up his weapons? Specifically, the issue is what Kim means by his insistence on the “complete de…

Policy Paper
North Korea’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site: Current Status and Future Inspections

A 38 North exclusive with analysis by Frank V. Pabian and Joel Wit. One task ahead for the United States and North Korea if current denuclearization negotiations continue will be to conduct an onsite inspection of the now shut-down Punggye-ri nuclear t…

Commentary
In Strong Support of Ambassador Biegun

Dear Mr. Ambassador: A number of articles have recently been written about what a tough job you have and that if you fail, the result could be nuclear war. We at 38 North, some of whom have worked on policy towards North Korea both inside and outside t…

Commentary
The U.S. And North Korea Have Made Progress. Here’s How They Can Keep It Up

While the press has been full of stories about frustration with North Korea’s lack of rapid follow-through on its denuclearization pledge at the Singapore summit, President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are right in saying that the United St…

Commentary
What the North Koreans Told Me About Their Plans

This article is a reprint of Joel Wit’s op-ed originally published in The Atlantic. It is reprinted by 38 North with kind permission. What exactly do the North Koreans mean when they say they’re willing to denuclearize? And how exactly would they…

Stimson in the News
Joel Wit Quoted on North Korea’s Wants From U.S.

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Stimson in the News
Joel Wit Quoted on Challenges in Denuclearizing North Korea

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Stimson in the News
Joel wit Interviewed on U.S. – North Korea Talks

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Stimson in the News
Joel Wit Quoted on U.S. Erratic Policy Towards North Korea

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Stimson in the News
Joel Wit Quoted on Trump Leadership

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Stimson in the News
Joel Wit Quoted on North Korea’s Plan B

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Stimson in the News
Joel Wit Interviewed on Trump’s Cancellation of Summit

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Stimson in the News
Joel Wit Quoted on Explanation of Cancelled Summit

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Stimson in the News
Joel Wit Op-Ed on North Korea’s Plans for Denuclearization

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