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Preventing Nuclear War With North Korea

What to Do After the Test

Smoke rises from burnt banners during an anti-North Korea rally in central Seoul, South Korea, September 10, 2016. Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters

Few anticipated that 2016 would see such unprecedented missile and nuclear testing in North Korea, most recently its fifth and largest ever test, reportedly coming in at 10 kilotons. But none of this should have come as a surprise. Under Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s approach to developing its strategic forces is markedly different—more aggressive—than it was under his father or grandfather. The striking change puts the Korean Peninsula on a path to nuclear war unless the U.S.-South Korean alliance can adapt to the constraints of deterrence and defense against a second-tier nuclear-armed adversary.

Whereas Kim Jong Il’s North Korea conducted 18 missile tests during his 18-year reign, the last four years under Kim Jong Un have already seen 35 missile launches and three nuclear tests. In word and deed, Kim Jong Un has laid bare his intentions to mate nuclear warheads to long-range missiles, pursue a hydrogen-based

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