Any military option to strike North Korea's nuclear arsenal would be more likely to result in its use than its elimination. Doing so would endanger millions in South Korea, Japan, and, now, the U.S. — and possibly draw us into a war with China.
The Trump administration's flirtation with military options and their hopeless pursuit of denuclearization has caused it to neglect the primary military objective: maintaining stability. This means deterring a nuclear North Korea, assuring American allies, and eschewing threats that could provoke the regime to start a nuclear war.
North Korea must be convinced that it cannot degrade allied posture by acting out and that it cannot cover conventional aggression with nuclear blackmail. Our allies must believe that the United States will not abandon them if they are attacked.
Bottom line: The U.S. must undertake new deployments of unambiguously defensive systems to guard against North Korea's submarines, missiles, and special operations forces. Neither we nor our allies should threaten North Korea's stability or its leadership. At the same time, a direct approach to Pyongyang could trade symbolic B-1B flights for limits on missile tests and deescalate the situation.
Read the other experts:
- Daniel Russel, diplomat in residence at Asia Society Policy Institute: The possibility of a warning shot
- Du Hyeogn Cha, visiting research fellow at Asan Institute for Policy Studies: Keeping the military option open
- Jonathan Pollack, senior fellow at Brookings' Center for East Asia Policy: There are no easy answers