Dan Drezner remarks on the DPRK's recent nuclear test:
I think the Obama administration has come up with a novel way of dealing with the North Koreans — get everyone to talk about something else.
That is novel — at least compared to the nonsense normally spewed by the Bush administration every time Kim Jong-il decided to yank their chains. And in any case, if meaningless bluster isn't your thing, there aren't a whole lot of choices available:
The alternatives to the repeated short-term carrot strategy are even less appealing. There is no viable military option unless everyone is comfortable with the destruction of Seoul; there is no viable sanctions option unless China decides to cut off the energy tap, and they'll only do this if they're sure it won't lead to a stream of North Korea refugees entering Manchuria.
In other words, there's really not a lot we can do about this unless China, against all odds, (a) finally tires of Pyongyang's antics, (b) beefs up its suprisingly porous border with North Korea, and (c) decides to cut off aid. There's some evidence of (a), but not much for anything else.