North Korea continues to accelerate its hostile nuclear missile program, and the US has few choices to blunt, much less end, this preeminent threat. Not enough leverage has come quickly enough from China. A naval blockade or quarantine will not produce direct results. Conventional war would be a bloodbath. And tactical nuclear strikes would not save deployed Americans and South Koreans, already skittish, from devastating retaliation.
There is another option. Cyberwar and sabotage have slowed Pyongyang's progress and foiled past launches. This effort should now add attacks on the North's strategic infrastructure, especially its electrical grid. The U.S. has signaled in the past that it has the power to severely disrupt or at least temporarily shut down Russia's grid; if that capability has not been developed yet against North Korea, federal cyberwarriors, aided by the private sector if necessary, must ready it for immediate use. Pyongyang should be informed that unless all testing and launches stop at once, the lights will go out.
Bottom line: Although many subjects are accustomed to darkness at night, as satellite photos make clear, stripping the military elite of electrical power would cripple the regime — making launches and research prohibitive, and perhaps even precipitating its collapse.
- Jim Walsh, Senior Research Associate at MIT's Security Studies Program: Negotiate or else
- Van Jackson, former Defense Department adviser focused on the Asia-Pacific: Escalation could lead to nuclear war
- Wendy R. Sherman, former undersecretary of State for political affairs: Full-court diplomacy (even secret talks with North Korea)
- Kurt Campbell, former assistant secretary of State for east Asian and Pacific affairs: A Trump Nixon-to-China moment in North Korea