North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test comes closer than ever to North Korea’s claims and its apparent goal: to pose a very real, clear, and present danger to the United States.
North Korea claims its new rocket can reach the continental United States, and most of the experts say this is indeed possible.
The question remains: What do we do about the North Korean regime and the threat it very boldly makes against us?
The United States has four options:
● Keep trying sanctions, but tougher ones with more partners.
● Keep pressuring China and Japan, and to a lesser extent, Russia, to help us contain North Korea.
● Build up our own nuclear stock and deploy more conventional forces and naval power to the region as deterrents. Deterrence, including “mutually assured destruction,” worked in the 1950 and 1960s with the U.S.S.R. Eventually the cost of the war machine became too high for Russia
Any administration, no matter the rhetoric flying, will give the first three options as much effort and as much time as possible, to avoid the final option, because war would mean the death of so many innocent civilians in South Korea and Japan. It would also quickly end the economic boom in the United States.
The news is not all bad. China expressed “grave concerns” last week. Eighty percent of North Korea’s trade is with China, which should give China leverage. Beijing cannot afford for the Pyongyang regime to be at war, producing thousands of refugees looking for safe haven.
Russia has made some signals that it will, indeed, weigh in.
Some very thin hope for regime change in Pyongyang exists as well, based on the miserable living conditions of North Koreans and the contrast with prosperous South Korea. That country’s current president, Moon Jae-in believes that direct talks with the North could help.
The technical barriers still remaining for North Korea’s current nuclear capacity offer us a little more time, but not much. We cannot wait for the North to achieve its goals.
The South and the North should negotiate directly, and the U.S. should pursue back-channel talks with North Korea’s regime. Dialogue, along with sanctions and deterrence, offers our best hopes. But war may still come.
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