North Korea’s fourth nuclear test set in motion a predictable chain reaction. I refer not to the precision of nuclear physics, but to the same old policy responses from all regional powers. The United States condemned the unlawful act and then urged China to join in meting out harsh punitive measures. China demurred, leaving the United States to implore North Korea to fulfill its denuclearization obligations while seeking ways to tweak an existing sanctions regime. Now North Korea, true to form, has followed the nuclear test with another long-range rocket launch, the combination of which brings Pyongyang ever closer to fielding an operational intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). As the French are fond of saying, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (“the more it changes, the more it stays the same”).
U.S. diplomacy is singularly unpersuasive. Beseeching North Korea to follow Iran’s lead and urging China to exact painful sanctions against the regime in Pyongyang are doomed to fail, sapping American power and credibility in the process.
Read the full op-ed on War on the Rocks.