The U.S. officially recognizes only the government of South Korea and not the government of North Korea. I am trying to understand why this is because the U.S. has recognized many other dictatorships including the governments of Saddam Hussein and the government of Bashar Al Assad. Historically we also recognized the existence of our greatest enemy, the U.S.S.R.

So my question is why does the U.S. not recognize the North Korean government as it does with other enemies, and what does the U.S. gain from this?

  • 2
    citations please. Please give evidence that the US only recognises south korea.
    – James K
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 21:08
  • Because the US recognize the government of SK as the only government of whole Korean peninsula. If they recognize NK as a nation then SK would be very concerned. For the same reason US choose not to recognize Taiwan as a nation by itself. Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 22:53
  • @user3528438 America's non-recognition of Taiwan differs from its non-recognition of North Korea. As you say, America recognizes South Korea as the rightful government of both North Korea and South Korea. However America does not say that China is the rightful government of Both China and Taiwan. America recognizes China as the government of China. America "acknowledges that Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States does not challenge that position." However America does not itself take a position.
    – Readin
    Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 0:33
  • @user3528438 America's position on the China-Taiwan relationship is widely misunderstood; even major newspapers frequently get it wrong.
    – Readin
    Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 0:34
  • @user3528438 on the comparison you made, America recognizes authoritarian China and not democratic Taiwan because China is powerful and it wants China's help. But America recognizes democratic South Korea and not authoritarian North Korea because in the past America feared the Soviet Union and now because America just likes free countries better.
    – Readin
    Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 0:36

1 Answer 1


The USA has recognised the DPRK as the de facto government of the northern portion of the Korean peninsula. In particular, it chose not to veto UN Security Council Resolution 702, which recommended that both North and South Korea both become members of the United Nations. As noted here:

A vote by a country in the United Nations in favour of the membership of another country is an implicit recognition of that country by the country so voting, as only states may be members of the UN.

The USA does not maintain diplomatic relations with North Korea, which is not surprising given the state of hostility between the two governments. The USA also has no diplomatic relations with Iran, Syria or Bhutan.

  • this doesn't answer the why though. As your answer shows they COULD have vetoed the resolution.
    – user4012
    Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 11:10
  • 5
    There is no "why" to the original question, because the premise is wrong, because the USA de facto recognises North Korea. Why not diplomatic relations? Because of mutual hostility between the two governments. (Also, the DPRK is reluctant to have external ties with anyone.) Why the de facto recognition? Probably in recognition of the simple fact that the DPRK exists and governs North Korea (and had done for more than 40 years at the time Resolution 702 was passed). Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 11:37
  • I have always understood diplomatic recognition to include things like exchanging ambassadors and such. I suspect that is what the original question meant, as opposed to the de facto recognition that America extends to NK. I'll add that as a comment to the question.
    – Readin
    Commented Dec 10, 2017 at 0:15

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