Full-court diplomacy (even secret talks with North Korea)
The United States has never arrayed all of our tools and advantages simultaneously and overwhelmingly to end North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
A successful U.S. strategy will be complex, including quiet talks with China to discuss what prevents Beijing from using all of its muscle, close coordination with South Korean and Japanese allies, intensified sanctions in conjunction with the EU and other major stakeholders, strengthened missile defenses and enhanced missile deterrence, and appropriate employment of U.S. cyber and intelligence capabilities.
Serious, tough diplomacy with a focus on human rights, and bringing Americans home, will be essential to shape North Korea's choices.
The goal of this approach would be to convince Pyongyang that its development of nuclear weapons is undermining its goal of regime survival and increasing the possibility of further isolation and collapse. Towards this end, we should remain open to establishing a secret channel of communication with Pyongyang to discuss our expectations and convey our willingness to deal with North Korea's concerns if they deal in good faith with ours.
Bottom line: Together, the United States, China, South Korea, Japan, Russia, and the international community must use all the tools at our disposal to compel Pyongyang to choose between nuclear weapons or regime survival. We may have to get to the brink to have the courage to do all that is needed, and then some.
- Jim Walsh, Senior Research Associate at MIT's Security Studies Program: Negotiate or else
- James Poulos, foreign policy author, contributing editor at American Affairs: Wage cyberwar on North Korea's infrastructure
- Van Jackson, former Defense Department adviser focused on the Asia-Pacific: Escalation could lead to nuclear war
- Kurt Campbell, former assistant secretary of State for east Asian and Pacific affairs: A Trump Nixon-to-China moment in North Korea