s the Trump administration seeks to prevent North Korea from becoming a nuclear power, it will probably want to close the barn door as well, now that the horse has gotten out.
Tuesday’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile simply underscores the status quo. It changed nothing. North Korea is a nuclear power. It also has a highly sophisticated missile program. The two will soon be linked—if they’re not already—and Pyongyang will shortly have the ability to launch nuclear attacks on the U.S. mainland. (By the way, can we marvel for a moment at the technical aptitude of the North Koreans? This impoverished, isolated country has managed to build weapons of fearsome strength and remarkable sophistication. They’ve literally mastered rocket science, under the most arduous of circumstances.)
The goal of “preventing” North Korea from going nuclear is farcical at this point. The Kim dynasty made the strategic calculus decades ago that the only way to ensure the durability of their ghastly regime was to acquire a nuclear deterrent. Nothing—not sanctions, not the Sunshine Policy, not jolly visits from Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, and Dennis Rodman—has altered that. That the Kim regime was probably correct in their determination makes the last 50 years all the more tragic. The world would be a much better place—chiefly, for those Koreans trapped north of the 38th parallel—were the regime to fall. Kim’s nuclear deterrent makes that outcome nearly immune to external events.