The time for denial is over. North Korea has — or will very shortly have — the capability to launch a nuclear weapon against the United States. In the coming decades, historians can assign blame. For now, it is the task of policymakers to ensure that historians will still be around in the future to dissect this failure.
While denuclearization should remain the international community’s formal goal, it is no longer a practical policy. A freeze on missile and nuclear testing, which I advocated only seven months ago, has lost value as North Korea’s capabilities have rapidly advanced. Analysts can happily theorize about a disarming preventative strike, but the risks — to both the United States and its allies — are so serious that no sane politician would authorize one. Instead, Washington should try to establish some basic rules of the road with a newly nuclear Pyongyang.