North Korea carried out its fifth and largest nuclear test on September 9, drawing condemnation from governments around the world. The detonation comes after a series of mid-range missile tests that were conducted as world leaders assembled in China for the G20 summit.
In total, 2016 has seen 17 missile tests and two nuclear tests from the Hermit Kingdom.
These latest tests will be particularly worrisome for military planners in the U.S. and its allies, as they suggest a maturing technological capability in both the DPRK’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.
However, as is the case whenever Pyongyang lashes out, a coordinated global response to the tests will be hamstringed by China’s unwillingness to withdraw economic support and risk regime collapse on its border.
This all leaves the next US president with two imperfect options in dealing with North Korea’s evolving nuclear capabilities: détente or deterrence. And given the track record of the former, it might just be deterrence that wins out.