Charles Lane’s July 7 Washington Forum essay, “The North Korean advantage,” and Charles Krauthammer’s July 7 op-ed, “North Korea: The Rubicon is crossed,” recognized that North Korea will not abandon its nuclear weapons systems; they guarantee regime survival. Both commentaries recognized that China now has no compelling reason to force North Korea to accept U.S. demands.
We are left to deal with this very real and substantial threat the old-fashioned way: an active multilateral defense and deterrence that are recognized by all. We should upgrade our North Asia alliance with Japan and South Korea to NATO standards, leaving the option for others to join; deploy missile defense systems and, with Japan and South Korea, enter into an intense effort to develop new missile defense technologies, including those based in space; and deploy tactical nuclear weapons capable of eradicating North Korea’s artillery north of the demilitarized zone.
These dramatic, potentially dangerous measures are necessary for effective deterrence. They might convince China its security interests would best be served by engineering an agreement that limited and controlled North Korea’s nuclear capacity. They are also the sorts of measures we will need to consider when Iran becomes a nuclear power in the not-too-distant future.
Len Rogers, Arlington
The writer oversaw U.S. food aid to North Korea for the U.S. Agency for International Development during the Clinton administration.
President Trump has had one meaningful national security success: the missile attack on Syria followed by the downing of a Syrian fighter jet. Mr. Trump probably has the same playbook in mind for North Korea: intercepting test intercontinental ballistic missiles over the ocean, denying the regime the ability to perfect its weapon and opening a heretofore-closed avenue to serious negotiation. Japan and South Korea are likely to find that more acceptable than the status quo and preferable to other possible military options.
North Korea is progressing faster than expected toward marrying a nuclear warhead to a missile. More creative thinking is in order. Economic sanctions will take longer than the time available to be even moderately effective, and that can occur only with assistance, which the Chinese have demonstrated no interest in providing.
We need meaningful analysis of the intercept option instead of just positing that all military alternatives are equal and inevitably lead to war.
John E. Kelley, Washington
The writer is retired from the Foreign Service, for which he served in Japan and South Korea.