The North Korean conflict has been one of the most intractable – and opaque – issues on the international stage for decades. Analysts attempt to read into every new development like a haruspex interpreting so many chicken entrails. The internal politics of the regime are only dimly grasped, and the occasional glimpses the world receive into its inner workings often raise as many questions as they answer. North Korea can – and does – exploit its reputation for unpredictability. Renewed armed conflict with “the hermit kingdom” is a daunting prospect, and policymakers often go to great lengths to minimize this risk.
Whatever long-term movement towards détente may ultimately emerge from the “reset” in North Korean-American diplomatic relations, history does not give much grounds for optimism.
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The growing lethality of N. Korea’s military increasingly undercuts America’s ability to use diplomatic pressure, economic sanctions or military force to counter its provocative behavior.