Washington needs to talk with the North without preconditions and address China’s interests to win its assistance against the DPRK. It needs to push for an interim freeze of U.S.-South Korea military exercises in return for a suspension of North Korean missile and nuclear tests. Additionally, Washington needs to plan a backup strategy of deterrence and containment. It should also reconsider its conventional security guarantee and nuclear umbrella to the Republic of Korea, which makes America a potential nuclear target.
If President Trump truly hopes to frighten Kim into submission, North Korea’s latest missile test should disabuse him. Despite the president’s repeated fulminations, three carrier groups on patrol, a visit to Pyongyang by a Chinese envoy, and Secretary Tillerson’s expressions of pacific intent, the North is continuing to rush its missile and nuclear development. Unless President Trump changes his approach, he will have to choose between war and acquiescence.
Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a former special assistant to President Ronald Reagan. He is the author of Tripwire: Korea and U.S. Foreign Policy in a Changed World and coauthor of The Korean Conundrum: America’s Troubled Relations with North and South Korea .