North Korea is already a nuclear power — let’s move on

It’s time for a new approach: Give up. America should never “accept” North Korea as a nuclear weapon state. But it can end the pointless cycles of pressure and negotiation. .

Ambassador Nikki Haley’s remarks this week at the United Nations after North Korea’s latest missile test sounded like what a superpower should say. If war comes, “the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed.” If China doesn’t cut off oil to the Hermit Kingdom, “we can take the oil situation into our own hands.”

It would have been a great speech in 1997. That was when signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty were loath to violate it. It was before North Korea had tested its first nuclear device. It was before the U.S. cut a deal with Iran to overlook its past nuclear transgressions in exchange for a temporary freeze on its nuclear program and a free pass to test missiles.

In 2017, though, Haley’s warnings and the cruder ones from her boss, President Donald Trump, are disconnected from reality. And here it’s important to remember why the president and his envoys are making threats in the first place. All of this is in the service of a discredited policy to not allow North Korea to obtain a nuclear weapon. The idea has been to threaten, coddle and tempt Kim Jong Un to start negotiations that would lead to him abandoning them.

Well, this is never going to happen. America and her allies have been trying this for about a quarter century, and the North Koreans burn us every time. Now North Korea only needs to perfect a nuclear warhead that can survive re-entry into the atmosphere to have a credible nuclear threat against the U.S. As Michael Auslin, a fellow in contemporary Asia at the Hoover Institution, told me this week: “That’s only a matter of time. It’s a technical issue at this point. They are going to get it.”

So it’s time for a new approach: Give up. America should never “accept” North Korea as a nuclear weapon state. But it can end the pointless cycles of pressure and negotiation. The North Koreans have used all that posturing to buy time to perfect their nukes, and the Chinese have artfully used that dance to distract us from countering China’s own predations.

And yes, I know “give up” sounds dangerously un-American. Let’s put it another way: Focus on a battle we have not yet lost.

Instead of wasting the resources of an already depleted State Department on preparing for more…

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