How The U.S. Might Respond To North Korea

by Cate Carrejo
U.S. Navy/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Despite warnings from multiple countries, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un authorized a nuclear test this weekend. Although it wasn't successful, the lack of deference towards the international community's condemnation of the nuclear program seems to demand action on behalf of the billions of lives at risk should North Korea reach true proliferation in the near future. The U.S. response to the North Korean nuclear test might not be immediate, but it seems to be coming very soon.

"This morning’s provocation from the North is just the latest reminder of the risks each one of you face each and every day in the defense of the freedom of the people of South Korea and the defense of America in this part of the world," Vice President Mike Pence said while in South Korea on Sunday.

Senior U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News last week that they intended to attack North Korea should they follow through on another nuclear test. However, the outcome of the test may have changed the stakes of that potential retaliation. According to Reuters, the U.S. Pacific Command said that the missile "blew up almost immediately" upon launch, and it wasn't the kind of missile that could have reached the continental U.S. Still, an international coalition of defense officials is reportedly coming up with a plan of action to address Kim's relentless attempts at nuclearization.

"We are working together with our allies and partners and with the Chinese leadership to develop a range of options," National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told ABC in an interview on Sunday morning. "I think there's an international consensus now, including the Chinese and the Chinese leadership, that this is a situation that just can't continue."

Given the escalating conflict in Syria right now, as well as political tensions at home, the U.S. really can't afford to launch an offensive against North Korea right now. Diplomatic actions seem to be the way to go, but that might be much easier said than done — North Korea is a notoriously difficult government to deal with, and decades of attempts at negotiations have produced little result. Barack Obama warned Donald Trump on his way out of the Oval Office that North Korea would be the biggest national security issue of his presidency, and at this point, that could very likely mean war.

The reduced level of imminent threat to the U.S. is a relief for millions of Americans, but doesn't solve the large problem of what to do about North Korea. Since Kim doesn't seem to be too interested in negotiation, it could be up to the U.S. and China to lead a military offensive against the country to deter their nuclear program once and for all. Although peace between North Korea and the rest of the international community is ostensibly the long-term goal, it could take military action to get there.