The Trump administration claims “all options are on the table” for dealing with North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program—from using military force, to pressuring China to punish its North Korean ally, to Donald Trump negotiating directly with Kim Jong Un. But what do those options look like? And what consequences could they have? This series explores those questions, option by option.
Before Donald Trump was threatening North Korea with apocalyptic war, he was an advocate of trying to negotiate with the Kim regime over its pursuit of nuclear weapons prior to taking any military action. “If a man walks up to you on a street in Washington … and puts a gun to your head and says, ‘Give me your money,’ wouldn’t you rather know where he’s coming from before he had the gun in his hand?” Trump asked Tim Russert on Meet the Press in October 1999. The time was ripe to strike a deal with the North Koreans and, if that failed, to strike their young nuclear program, he argued, with foresight, because the North was just several years away from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Now the gun is swiveling toward Trump’s head; North Korea is thought to be very close to obtaining a nuclear weapon that can hit the United States. But the American president still hasn’t given up on talking to the gunman. Trump “has told people around him” that his militant rhetoric regarding North Korea is designed to “create a crisis that drives [North Korean leader Kim Jong Un] to negotiate before North Korea perfects a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the American mainland,” The New York Times reports. (An American diplomat is also reportedly in touch with a North Korean diplomat in New York, though little has come of the back channel so far.)