Bellicose rhetoric, hollow threats, contradictions and too little coordination with allies are some of the major elements which define strategic conundrum of North Korea. With America having most to lose than other parties involved, the strike is almost impossible and close to near futile.

United States has a long history of conflictual relationship with North Korea. In 1994, President Clinton considered for a preemptive strike on North Korea but he couldn’t use this option on ground due to the potential fallout. The fallout was obvious: North Korea’s devastating artillery is only 35 miles away from capital of South Korea, Seoul. Hundreds of thousands of South Koreans life is at stake on the two countries’ heavily militarized border. Therefore, South Korea never approves of any such idea.

In Mar-a-Lago, Trump pressured Xi Jinping for a deal on North Korea “If Beijing helps us deal with the defiant North Korea, we’ll facilitate China on its major economic issues with the US”. It shows America’s weakness in dealing with the country alone, when it gives Beijing a mediator role in the Korean peninsula. Trump offered much more to President Xi Jinping besides mediation. After the summit, in an interview with Wall Street Journal, he claimed, “(Xi) then went into the history of China and Korea. Not North Korea, Korea. And you know, you’re talking about thousands of years…and many wars. And Korea actually used to be a part of China.” If a conflict erupts on Korean peninsula, China will not suffer. It is allies of the US in the region who will pay the price. This was the reason Barack Obama didn’t go for a military solution.

The history of the US reveals that it goes for a strike under three conditions. First, when a civil war is going on in a country, as in the case of Syria, the chances for a strike are more probable. Second, if a nation has no will to stand with its leader against the US, the strike seems to be more in offing. For instance, Iraq, where President George Bush knew that Iraqis were not behind Saddam. Third, if the country is too defiant but it has no military capability to fight back as in the case of Afghanistan, when the US dropped the mother of bomb on it. None of the conditions can be applied on North Korea.

Other than this strategic calculus, North Korea’ s defiance and resolve is not only hard to be ignored but also too difficult to be dealt with.

For North Korea, nuclear weapons are not only a means of national defense but a matter of near-religious devotion. Depicted as a bold militaristic slogan, they are everywhere in Pyongyang: in floral exhibitions, public mosaics, farms, schools and factories. More than that, nuclear weapons are vital to Kim Jong-Un’s political survival and the legacy of his dynasty. Since the Korean War, North Korea has been demanding removal of the US troops from South Korea. Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea and Kim Jong’s grandfather, was in favor of peaceful unification of Korea but he believed that once Korea grew stronger the problem of unification could be solved through war.

Anti-Americanism is the staple of North Korea, which has made the country and its people resistant enough to suffer economically and acquire nuclear weapon. Military and the ruling elite are not ready to compromise on their survival. Furthermore, military first is the foremost component of North Korea’s foreign policy. If the president doesn’t give a military response when US attacks, what use of military is to it?

In this backdrop, if a pressurised Kim Jong-Un goes to any extent to win the military and nations’ confidence, he will become a hero of the nation. A country which is working on the maxim of “eat nothing but make bomb” has nothing to lose in the face of a much-hyped strike from the US.

This conundrum has puzzled the United States for quite long time. Neither did America’s previous strategy work on North Korea nor it has a new one to handle the defiant Kim. Defiance and using nuclear weapons has become a matter of survival of Kim. Lack of a coherent strategy coupled with Trump’s bravado and bluster are only making this matter worse. Moreover, North Korea’s nuclear sites are scattered or either buried deep and in, some cases, underwater. All the above-mentioned factors are tying America’s hands when it comes to considering a hardcore military option. What does US want to achieve through strike? If it wants to subdue North Korea, a strike wouldn’t prove effective. So, rationality dictates that US should work on a non-military solution to deal with North Korea.