There Is No Longer Any Way to Halt North Korea’s Nuclear Program

I don’t ordinarily do this, but I want to clear up what I said yesterday about North Korea and nukes. This time, I’ll say it in the plainest language possible.

Fifteen years ago, it’s possible that diplomacy could have stopped North Korea from developing nuclear weapons. That’s certainly what I thought. It’s also possible that heavy sanctions could have done it. It’s even possible that military action could have done it, though that would have been very risky for reasons that everyone knows about—though here’s a map in case you don’t:

None of this is true anymore. North Korea already has nuclear weapons. They have a productive source of fissile material. They’re very close to developing a reliable ICBM, and probably close to developing a nuclear warhead small enough for their ICBMs. That’s what the DIA thinks, anyway. And North Korea has made it crystal clear that developing a nuclear deterrent capability against the United States is their #1 national priority.

Liberals like to think that maybe more diplomacy will stop North Korea’s nuclear program. It won’t. Conservatives like to think that tougher sanctions, or possibly military force, will stop their nuclear program. They won’t. Donald Trump likes to pretend that China can stop their nuclear program. They either can’t or won’t. Like it or not, this is where we are.

There are only two options left. Either we accept a nuclear-armed North Korea or we launch a nuclear strike to take out their capabilities. Since a nuclear strike is insane for too many reasons to list—including the fact that it might not even work—this means we really have no options at all. We can, if we want, maintain a hostile attitude toward North Korea as a signal to others about the price of developing nukes, but we basically have to accept the reality that North Korea is a nuclear state.

This is what I think could use some plainer language from national security types. Let’s knock off the fantasy op-eds full of vague talk about China and sanctions and diplomacy. Instead, tell people the bald truth. It would give the hawks some pause, and might even reduce the pressure that could lead someone like Donald Trump to do something stupid. This is, unfortunately, something we all have to think about these days.