How to Stop North Korea: Use the ‘Python’ Strategy

Bruce Klingner

Security, Asia

Sanctions and targeted financial measures require time and the political will to maintain them in order to work.

How to Stop North Korea: Use the ‘Python’ Strategy

On November 28, North Korea once again defied the international community. In violation of UN resolutions, it launched an ICBM—its third successful ICBM test of the year. This missile flew far higher than Pyongyang’s previous missiles. Had it flown on a normal trajectory, it would have a range of 13,000 kilometers, sufficient to threaten the entire continental United States.

North Korea declared the test was the first of the Hwasong-15, “an intercontinental ballistic missile tipped with super-large heavy warhead which is capable of striking the whole mainland of the U.S.” It is currently uncertain whether the test demonstrated a reentry vehicle capability, which is an important step prior to deployment of the ICBM.

In July, two tests of the Hwasong-14 ICBM demonstrated estimated ranges of 10,000–11,000 kilometers, sufficient to target Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, and potentially New York City and Washington DC. In September, North Korea conducted a nuclear test of over 150 kilotons, most likely a hydrogen weapon. For comparison, the 1945 atomic bomb explosions over Hiroshima and Nagasaki were only fifteen kilotons. Pyongyang has also threatened to conduct an atmospheric test of “an unprecedented scale hydrogen bomb” over the Pacific Ocean.

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This week’s event was the first missile launch in seventy-five days. Supporters of President Donald Trump asserted that Pyongyang had been deterred from further launches by the president’s resolute threats. Alternatively, advocates for resuming diplomatic engagement with North Korea asserted the launch hiatus was a “signal” that Pyongyang sought diplomatic engagement and wished to resume negotiations with the United States. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Deputy Assistant…

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