On the Brink: The threat of nuclear war

A conversation with Van Jackson



21 February 2019


USSC Boardroom


Launch event

Throughout 2017, President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un hurled insults and escalating threats of nuclear war at one another amid threatening shows of military force on the Korean Peninsula. In June 2018, in a remarkable about-face, they held a historic summit in Singapore, but seven months later, the United States and North Korea have failed to move beyond the vague promises on denuclearization forged by Kim and Trump.

In his new book, On the Brink: Trump, Kim, and the Threat of Nuclear War, former Pentagon insider and Korean security expert Dr Van Jackson analyses the US response to North Korea's increasing nuclear threat in the context of Trump's aggressive rhetoric, prior US policy failures, the geopolitics of East Asia, and North Korean strategy, including the acceleration of its nuclear program under Kim Jong Un. He argues that the Trump Administration's policy of "maximum pressure" brought the world much closer to nuclear war than many realise, and charts a course for the prevention of future conflicts.

As we look ahead to a proposed second Trump-Kim summit, Dr Jackson, a Global Fellow with the Woodrow Wilson Center and senior lecturer in international relations at Victoria University of Wellington in Wellington, New Zealand, joined us for a discussion on his new book, the next Trump-Kim summit, the nuclear threat from North Korea and the potential for a diplomatic breakthrough.


  • Dr Van Jackson
    Dr Van Jackson
    Senior Lecturer in International Relations, Victoria University

    Dr Van Jackson is an American political scientist, strategist, and media commentator specialising in Asian security and defence affairs. He is a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Victoria University of Wellington, and concurrently holds two think tank appointments: as a Wilson Center Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, and as the Defence & Strategy Fellow at the Centre for Strategic Studies in Wellington, New Zealand.