North Korea has always relied on provocation to preserve regime stability. The Kim regime refuses to recognize the 1953 armistice as an end of the Korean War and desires to reunite the peninsula under North Korean control.[i] Even in the face of international pressure, North Korea has developed nuclear weapons to combat threats to the regime and maintain Kim's survival.[ii] The successful Pukguksong-3 submarine based missile launch earlier this week is the latest escalation of North Korean's threatening behavior.[iii] Kim now has a two-pronged nuclear arsenal capable of reaching U.S. forces in Japan, Guam, or even Hawaii.
The United States must take immediate measures, both independently and multilaterally, to counter or eliminate the North Korean threat by using all instruments of national power. Policymakers should consider three policy options: containing North Korea's capabilities, destroying North Korea's capabilities without regime change, and compelling North Korean regime change. All of the policies proposed aim to support the goals outlined in the 2017 National Security Strategy to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and preserve the non-proliferation regime in Northeast Asia.[