Sobering CRS report on US military options for a nuclear-armed North Korea

From The North Korean Nuclear Challenge: Military Options and Issues for Congress (Oct. 27, 2017 R44994):

North Korea’s apparently successful July 2017 tests of its intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities, along with the possibility that North Korea (DPRK) may have successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead, have led analysts and policymakers to conclude that the window for preventing the DPRK from acquiring a nuclear missile capable of reaching the United States is closing. These events appear to have fundamentally altered U.S. perceptions of the threat the Kim Jong-un regime poses to the continental United States and the international community, and escalated the standoff on the Korean Peninsula to levels that have arguably not been seen since 1994.

A key issue is whether or not the United States could manage and deter a nuclear-armed North Korea if it were to become capable of attacking targets in the U.S. homeland, and whether taking decisive military action to prevent the emergence of such a DPRK capability might be necessary. Either choice would bring with it considerable risk for the United States, its allies, regional stability, and global order. Trump Administration officials have stated that “all options are on the table,” to include the use of military force to “denuclearize,”—generally interpreted to mean eliminating nuclear weapons and related capabilities—from that area.

In this report, CRS identifies seven possible options, with their implications and attendant risks, for the employment of the military to denuclearize North Korea. These options are
 maintaining the military status quo,
 enhanced containment and deterrence,
 denying DPRK acquisition of delivery systems capable of threatening the United States,
 eliminating ICBM facilities and launch pads,
 eliminating DPRK nuclear facilities,
 DPRK regime change, and
 withdrawing U.S. military forces.
These options are based entirely on open-source materials, and do not represent a complete list of possibilities. CRS cannot verify whether any of these potential options are currently being considered by U.S. and ROK leaders. CRS does not advocate for or against a military response to the current situation.

— Joe

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