Don’t panic about North Korea

Fred Kaplan writes: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is doing a lot of reckless things these days, but he poses no threat to the United States—or at least no sort of threat that we can’t readily handle. If he deploys a nuclear-tipped missile with the range to strike U.S. territory (as he’ll likely be able to do soon), that will complicate national security policy but in a completely manageable way. It won’t mean that he’s about to attack some American city—or that we need to attack North Korea pre-emptively.

In short, it’s time to pipe down about North Korea—not because Kim is benign or powerless (he’s neither), but because the hysteria coming out of Washington these days is overwrought and is making things worse.

There are two reasons not to be so nervous about North Korea’s recent tests of missiles and nuclear explosives. First, nuclear deterrence—the theory that Country X won’t fire nukes at Country Y if Country Y has nukes it can fire back—works. In the annals of international relations, there are fewer theories that have a better track record than this one. Second, we have thousands of nuclear weapons—stationed worldwide, on land, at sea, and in the air—and there’s no way Kim could launch an attack on us without facing an annihilating retaliatory blow. [Continue reading…]

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