The threat of North Korean Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) to the United States and its allies would be minimal at the present time had previous administrations, especially the Obama administration, not cut back funding of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), the U.S. government agency responsible for developing anti-ballistic missile (ABM) weapons systems.
That said, what are the diplomatic and military options the U.S. can pursue at the present time, besides the United Nations resolutions and economic sanctions recently put in place? The needed further measures must be centered on recognition of North Korea as the Chinese puppet (or politely, proxy) state it clearly is. This leads to the following options:
- The most desirable outcome would be for the Chinese, U.S., South Korea, and Japan to negotiate the unification and denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. The new Korean Republic would be committed by its constitution to be nonaligned and free of foreign troops; leaders of the present North Korean government would be sent into exile and kept there.
- If the Chinese government is not willing to pursue this win-win permanent solution to the North Korean problem, the Chinese could simply occupy North Korea and incorporate it as a province of China, as it once did brutally to Tibet. This would at least have the virtue of eliminating the lunatic weapons-proliferating North Korean regime and raising the standard of living of its enslaved people.
- If the Chinese are uninterested in pursuing either of the first two options, the U.S. would say to the Chinese, “O.K., by refusing to liquidate your North Korean proxy, you will clearly have destroyed nonproliferation, not only regionally but internationally, and all the more so because North Korea will be selling its missiles and nuclear weapons to rogue states and perhaps even terrorists. In consequence of your complicity in the destruction of nonproliferation, we will reverse our long-standing policies and now be encouraging your neighbors — South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Vietnam — to develop their own nuclear, missile, and ABM capabilities. Our defense contractors will doubtless welcome the new markets that you will so helpfully have opened up for them.”
In the interim, the U.S. should deploy its THAAD, Aegis, and other ABM systems, hopefully joined by Japan (which has its own ABM capabilities), and play shoot-em-up practice with all future North Korean missile tests. True, there may be a few embarrassing failures with some of the attempted shoot-downs, but what better opportunity to learn from realistic targets? And if North Korea is foolish enough to hit any asset of the U.S. and its allies besides salt water, whether by accident or intention, it will be time for diplomacy to yield in favor of immediate military options.