With the window closing fast for the U.S. to stop Kim Jong Un from obtaining a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile, North Korea watchers are starting to analyze President Donald Trump’s military options. He warned on Tuesday that North Korea would be met with “fire and fury” if it continues to make threats. After the United Nations agreed to its most stringent sanctions yet on Kim’s regime, North Korea repeated its stance that its nuclear weapons program is necessary to deter a U.S. invasion. For Trump and the U.S., there are no easy choices.
1. Can’t the U.S. try a surgical strike?
It probably wouldn’t work well enough. North Korea’s missiles and nuclear facilities are dispersed and hidden throughout the country’s mountainous terrain. Failing to hit them all would leave some 10 million people in Seoul, 38 million people in the Tokyo vicinity and tens of thousands of U.S. military personnel in northeast Asia vulnerable to missile attacks — with either conventional or nuclear warheads. Even if the U.S. managed to wipe out everything, Seoul would still be vulnerable to attacks from North Korea’s artillery.