After North Korea’s decades-long missile program finally bore out a nuclear-capable weapon capable of striking the US mainland on July 4, President Donald Trump vowed to confront the country “very strongly.”
Speaking to an audience in Warsaw, Poland, Trump said the US was considering “severe things” to retaliate against a nation that is “behaving in a very, very dangerous manner.”
But there’s almost nothing that can be done to stop North Korea now.
Shortly before North Korea’s watershed launch of the intercontinental ballistic missile, Trump was briefed on a new range of military options for dealing with the country. As Business Insider has reported on extensively, military options for facing North Korea are extremely dangerous at best, and unimaginably catastrophic at worst.
When Trump got a hold of the new military options for North Korea, he again declined to act.
But according to Yun Sun, a Senior Associate at the Stimson Center, Trump never had any good options for dealing with North Korea, and he has even worse options now.
“The ICBM test removed the false hope that we might be able to stop North Korean nuclear provocations with either sanctions or the use of military provocations,” said Yun.
North Korea has vastly accelerated the pace of its missile testing under Trump’s presidency, but it had been preparing these tests for years, dating back to the Clinton administration. By the time Trump took office, North Koreans were just a few short months from achieving their ultimate goal of a working ICBM.
According to Yun, nothing was going to stop them at this late stage in the game.
In years past, North Korea had floated the idea of suspending its missile program in exchange for the US halting military drills with South Korea, but the US refused every time on the grounds that the regularly planned, completely legal drills did not at all compare to Kim Jong Un’s nuclear threats and illegal development.
Now, faced with the possibility that North Korea has an unstoppable nuclear bomb, why would the US lay down its arms?
“The one thing we wanted to prevent North Korea from having, they already have it. What is the reasoning for us to suspend our military exercises at this point?” said Yun.
The US and international community can agree on sanctions for North Korea, which China may water down, but diplomatic talks are now strained and the US’s hand is undeniably weaker.
“How can we reward ICBM tests with engagement?” asked Yun.