3 Ways that North Korea Could Strike Back at America
The Trump administration is pursuing this incentive-and-disincentive policy with more vigor than its predecessors. Threats of secondary sanctions on Chinese entities and fiery rhetoric are both designed to catalyze China into joining the right cause. Washington is pressuring Beijing to lean much harder on Pyongyang, and President Trump wants China to worry about the consequences of not doing more to rein in Kim’s nuclear and missile programs.
Unfortunately, China is unlikely to do enough and we should not expect North Korea to back down from wanting to field ICBMs and other nuclear-armed missiles. The security objectives of Pyongyang (a nuclear-armed state) and Washington (a denuclearized Korean Peninsula) are diametrically opposed and leave little middle ground for compromise. This puts the United States and the region in a more precarious—if manageable—situation.
The Korean Peninsula has been a dangerous flashpoint ever since the war resulted in an armistice just over sixty-four years ago. North Korea’s latest achievements in weapons of mass destruction make the situation even more dangerous and yet, as with the past, manageable. We have reached a culminating point, and we should brace ourselves for a new level of permanent crisis even if hot war never breaks out.
Patrick M. Cronin is senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security and the former senior director of the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University.