by Mark Leon Goldberg
North Korea’s nuclear provocations escalated sharply in 2017, including several missile launches and a powerful nuclear test in September. The Trump administration turned to the Security Council to mount a response and the council delivered with the strongest set of sanctions ever imposed. The first sanctions were leveled in August, after a ballistic missile test, and then in September following a nuclear test explosion. In each case, the Trump administration lead in the drafting of these resolutions and secured the unanimous vote of the entire council. This was a worthy achievement that demonstrated international unity in confronting this crisis diplomatically.
In 2018 the degree to which that unity can be preserved will be a function of the degree to which the United States still seems determined to find a diplomatic solution to this crisis. Pugilistic tweets from President Trump have so far undermined efforts to engage Pyongyang, including those undertaken by his own secretary of state. Meanwhile, there is a growing chorus inside the beltway that is willing to accept a military solution to this stand-off, despite the hundreds of thousands of people that could perish.
UN officials have warned that a lack of communication between North Korea and the United States increases the prospect of confrontation or miscalculation. Because of these heightened tensions and the unpredictable nature of President Trump and Kim Jong Un, the risk of a military confrontation on the Korean peninsula–or even the US homeland–is distressingly real.