No good options against North Korea

No good options against North Korea

The U.S. is pressuring China to pressure the 'Hermit Kingdom' to give up its nuclear and bellicose ambitions.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley contends that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is "begging for war," and it's hard to disagree with her dispiriting words.

The poverty-stricken but belligerent nation followed up its sixth and largest nuclear test with words that U.S. military planners can't afford to ignore.

Han Tae Song, the ambassador of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to the U.N., characterized his country's nuclear tests as "gift packages" aimed at this country.

"The recent self-defense measures by my country, DPRK, are a gift package addressed to none other than the U.S.," Han said. "The U.S. will receive more gift packages from my country as long as it relies on reckless provocations and futile attempts to put pressure on the DPRK."

In addition to the provocative tests, news outlets report that North Korea "secretly moved an intercontinental ballistic missile into a coastal position."

As hard as it is to imagine nuclear war, it's even harder to imagine what — short of military action — the U.S. can do to dissuade North Korean from achieving its longtime goal of building a complete nuclear arsenal capable of hitting American cities, particularly on the West Coast.

The U.S. has been trying for years to persuade the so-called "Hermit Kingdom" to abandon its nuclear ambitions. Using a combination of carrots (foreign aid) and sticks (economic sanctions), the U.S. and allied nations have failed miserably to change North Korea's behavior. In response, Kim Jong Un has repeatedly escalated his rhetoric along with his actions to show his disdain for the U.S. as well as South Korea and Japan.

Most surprisingly, the North Korean leader, third in a line of family successors to rule the country, has even rhetorically antagonized the People's Republic of China, which the U.S. has enlisted to assist in de-nuclearizing North Korea.

Just how committed China is to assisting the U.S. is unclear. But it's not in China's national interest to have a military conflict on its doorstep.

For the time being, the U.S. is relying on enhanced sanctions and stepped-up diplomacy to scale back the tensions. The problem, of course, is that those methods have been tried in the past and failed.

From the outside, it would appear that even harsher sanctions on North Korea will be fruitless because the ruling regime, like that in Iran, is indifferent to the suffering of its people. Talk of isolating the country diplomatically is pointless because it is already isolated to the point it's called the "Hermit Kingdom."

Those hoping for a solution view China as a key player because of its alliance with North Korea. That's why one of the latest trial balloons from the U.S. involves discussion about discontinuing all trade with China unless it helps deal with North Korea.

The trade move would have a devastating economic impact on both the U.S. and China.

So there are, obviously, no good options here.

To allow North Korea to obtain nuclear weapons would put the fate of the U.S. in its hands. To forcibly disarm North Korea would lead to a devastating war with many thousands of casualties, including those in North and South Korea and Japan.

The only acceptable solutions are to do more in the future of what's been done in the past without success and hope it somehow works.

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