North Korea has the initiative. It is now firing rockets over the Japanese home islands and has seemingly tested a hydrogen bomb weapon. It seems little can be done with diplomacy, economic sanctions and military threats having proved ineffective. Acceptance of North Korea’s nuclear rocket forces is now urged even as worries about North Korea pushing on to develop an operational road-mobile, thermonuclear-armed, long-range rocket force grow. With this, North Korean actions might well grow even more erratic and worrying but stopping them will be very, very difficult.

There are some options that might impose penalties that actually worry North Korea and its long-term ally and protector, China. Beijing has tolerated indirect assistance being given by Chinese companies to North Korea’s nuclear and rocket developments, taking a relaxed altitude to sanctions enforcement. China seems to see some gains in destabilizing the Northeast Asia region, potentially splitting the U.S. alliance with South Korea and using North Korea as a proxy to threaten Japan.

North Korea and China appear to be on a roll. They will only change their deliberately chosen path if the cost of continuing towards building a long-range nuclear tipped rocket force exceeds the perceived benefits. There are potentially some ways to do this.

Please click here to read the full “How to fix America’s North Korea strategic failures” article published at The National Interest, written by Griffith Asia Institute Visiting Fellow, Dr Peter Layton.