The U.S. Must Consider the Cascading Global Effects of an Attack on North Korea

The U.S. Must Consider the Cascading Global Effects of an Attack on North Korea
A woman walks past a TV screen showing U.S. President Donald Trump giving his maiden address at the U.N. General Assembly, Tokyo, Japan, Sept. 20, 2017 (AP photo by Eugene Hoshiko).

During the past few weeks, the standoff between North Korea and the United States has cooled a bit. Pyongyang has not tested more ballistic missiles or nuclear devices, and U.S. President Donald Trump has not launched more insulting tweets at North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. That is good, but the crisis is no closer to resolution than it was months or years ago; there is not even a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. It remains the world’s most dangerous threat.

It is hard to see a path to resolution at this point. In a recent interview, Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, reiterated that the “only acceptable outcome” for the United States is the denuclearization of North Korea. Nearly every expert on North Korea considers this impossible, since nuclear weapons are the Kim regime’s guarantee of survival and the only thing that draws the attention that Kim seems to crave. Without nuclear weapons, North Korea is simply poor, weak and irrelevant.

This impasse has led the Trump administration to talk of preventative military action against North Korea. Clearly the administration is walking a fine line, seeking a diplomatic solution while recognizing that attaining one requires a realistic threat of force to make North Korea understand that it cannot continue along its current path. But while threats are necessary, they are also extraordinarily dangerous, increasing the chances of a misperception or error in judgment leading to a military confrontation that no one wants.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review