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A silver lining in the North Korea nuclear impasse?

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CLAREMONT, CALIFORNIA – Pyongyang’s series of short-range ballistic missiles firings of late is part of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s efforts to keep U.S. President Donald Trump focused on the North’s demands for sanctions relief and to express displeasure for last month’s U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises. While Kim’s calculated behavior avoids breaking his handshake agreement with Trump to cease long-range intercontinental ballistic missile launches and nuclear testing, the projectiles fired in recent months have a range capable of striking the Japanese archipelago, placing Tokyo at risk as Pyongyang makes technological advances with each session.

Policymakers in Tokyo are working overtime to identify ways to protect Japan from the North’s increasingly lethal intermediate-range missiles, and some have understandably been left asking if it’s time to put Kim back in his box? The answer is yes, although with the box half open.

Some context is necessary here.

To date, Kim has not taken any meaningful steps toward denuclearization. As his primary focus is the survival of the Kim dynasty, he has not relinquished any of his nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, nor has he shut down any of his nuclear facilities. Despite prior pledges, Kim has not allowed unfettered inspections of his facilities.

While resolving this long-standing problem by force is an option, it would be costly for the United States and South Korea, as well as Japan. A non-nuclear conflict with North Korea would likely result in Pyongyang firing intermediate-range missiles at any number of Japanese civilian soft targets as well as U.S. and Self-Defense Forces military facilities, resulting in casualties and significant destruction to property, infrastructure, markets and the world economy.

Furthermore, there are 30 million........

© The Japan Times