All military options with North Korea carry risks. But we must remember that North Korea has exploited U.S. and Korean concerns about war. The proper approach is a phrased response:
- Pressure and warning: U.S., South Korea, and other partners like Japan should conduct joint maritime exercises around the Korean Peninsula. Those measures could hint to Pyongyang of a coming blockade or physical isolation.
- Enhanced preparedness: The U.S. and South Korea should prepare a response of massive retaliation — including nuclear arms — should North Korea use weapons of mass destruction. The plan could be publicized through joint exercises to deliver the message that a military response to North Korean aggression would not be mere rhetoric.
- Preemptive strike: If the nuclear threat remains a clear and urgent danger despite phased efforts, the U.S. should take preemptive action. There is no perfect military solution for dealing with North Korea in one quick action, but we can never allow the impression that a military strike is off the table.
Bottom line: U.S.-South Korea alliance should continuously send the message to North Korea that they are prepared in both will and capability to act militarily.
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