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The U.S. Has Limited Options In Dealing With North Korea

The Mass Games in Pyongyang in 2007.
(Stephan) via Flickr Creative Commons

North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile yesterday, an act of aggression that has analysts concerned about the country’s next move — and wondering about how the U.S. will respond.

“People say we’re in a bad situation or that foreign policy was bad [under Obama], but then actually when you look at the range of possibilities, all of them are essentially not great,” said national security expert Juliette Kayyem Wednesday on Boston Public Radio.

It is possible that China could be the key to taming North Korea’s aggression, but Kayyem said she isn’t sure Xi Jinping and his administration will step up since “China wants to control the narrative about its relationship with North Korea.”

“You’re seeing the end of the American empire and China is rising,” she said. “The E.U., the G20, everyone is orienting toward China right now, so this is definitely a moment.”

Kayyem explained that talking heads from the Trump administration have stayed vague about the U.S.’ next steps regarding North Korea.

“You see all these military people come on and say, ‘We have to do more, we have to show them we’re tough,” she said. “When you actually drill them on what does that mean, are you actually saying first strike, are you actually saying war, what are you saying? No one has a good answer.”                                 

Kayyem said this was also a strategy employed by the Obama and Bush administrations.

“It’s easy to talk tough, and then when you say, ‘What’s the policy of aggressiveness or toughness?’ they all wither, as we all have to wither because the options are not good,” she said.

Juliette Kayyem is the host of the SCIF Podcast, a national security analyst for CNN and WGBH, and she’s the founder of Kayyem Solutions. To hear her interview in its entirety, click on the audio player above.

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