North Korea conducted its highest missile test yet. So much for the Trump administration’s forlorn hope that Pyongyang’s two-month pause of missile tests indicated that the Kim regime was prepared to negotiate terms of surrender with Washington.
Washington should start thinking about second-best solutions in a world in which the DPRK is a nuclear state.
Western nations responded with the usual meaningless denunciations of the North. President Donald Trump announced: “We will take care of it.”
No one outside of Kim Jong-un’s leadership wants the North to possess a capability to target the United States.
Nevertheless, even normally sober Defense Secretary James Mattis repeated Washington’s meaningless litany of scary claims—that the launch threatens America and “everywhere in the world.”
This misstates North Korea’s likely intentions for—and the actual impact of—its missile and nuclear programs. Pyongyang cares little about the world and everything about America.
This isn’t the first time an unpleasant, hostile, and threatening government acquired weapons of mass destruction and the means to attack the United States.
Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mao Zedong’s China presented Washington with a similarly difficult conundrum when they developed nuclear weapons. Mao even dismissed America’s retaliatory potential because of his nation’s abundant population. The United States considered and rejected preventive war in both cases.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea offers a similar threat, only far weaker. The DPRK is no superpower. Its economy is minuscule, population is small, and security situation is bleak.
The North is essentially friendless, down to little more than Cuba. Pyongyang’s former allies, Moscow and Beijing, aren’t likely to risk war to save it. Facing the North is far wealthier and advanced South Korea backed by the American global military colossus. Absent suicidal intent—and so far Kim Jong-un has followed his father and grandfather in desiring his virgins in this world, not the next—North Korea isn’t likely to attack America.
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