"Even worse, North Korea is now a nuclear-armed state. It is the only country to ever withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and has tested nuclear weapons on four occasions, the only state in the world to undertake nuclear tests in the 21st century. In mid-March, Kim Jong-un pledged that North Korea would conduct a fifth test in the near future, which many expect will be in conjunction with the Party Congress this week. Pyongyang also continues to pursue development of a wide variety of ballistic missiles and has engaged in a flurry of recent tests, most of which have been spectacular failures. It says otherwise to its own citizens, urging them to celebrate North Korea’s supposed achievements. North Korea also insists that it is now a full-fledged nuclear weapons state with capabilities equivalent to the established nuclear powers. These claims remain aspirational and without a basis in fact," writes Jonathan Pollack for the Brookings Institution.
"Kim has timed North Korea's nuclear sprint to coincide with internal and external objectives. First, he set the date for an historic seventh conference of the Korean Worker's Party for May 2016. Second, Kim used international condemnation under UN Security Council Resolution 2270 and the holding of annual U.S.-ROK Key Resolve/Foal Eagle military exercises in March and April as further justification to intensify his nuclear push. The third reason for North Korea's nuclear dash may be influenced by the U.S. political calendar. The Obama administration's main tool to blunt North Korea's crisis escalation tactics has been an approach known as 'strategic patience.' An underlying premise enabling such an approach for the last eight years has been the knowledge that North Korea's pace of nuclear and missile development was not rapid enough to enable Pyongyang to be able to directly strike the United States with a nuclear weapon on the Obama administration's watch. As a result, the White House could use pressure to slow North Korea's program while pushing Pyongyang to return to denuclearization talks," writes CFR's Scott Snyder for CNN.
"While sanctions are important and China, more than any other country, has the power to make North Korea feel their effects, sanctions alone are not enough to mitigate the threat. Backing an inexperienced and reckless leader like Mr. Kim into a corner is risky and might lead to even more dangerous responses, like aiming a weapon at South Korea or Japan, with potentially catastrophic results. At some point, the United States, along with China, South Korea, Japan and Russia, will have to find a way to revive negotiations aimed at curbing North Korea’s nuclear program. The Obama administration earlier this year had secret contacts with the North that foundered over a disagreement on whether to focus on denuclearization (America’s priority) or on replacing the current Korean War armistice with a formal peace treaty (North Korea’s priority). But the idea of talking with the North is politically unpopular in America, and this is an election year," writes the New York Times editorial board.