On Friday, North Korea launched another intercontinental ballistic missile. It's a huge deal.
For a start, this is the most advanced test North Korea has thus far conducted. As missile expert Jeffrey Lewis explains, the range is the key.
About 6,200 miles puts the U.S. West Coast in easy range of this missile. Indeed, by my assessments, it puts North Korean launch sites in range of Denver, Des Moines, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and even western Kansas. Add about 125 miles, and it's bye-bye, Chicago.
But hold that thought. Lewis suggests that the range may actually be even greater.
Regardless, the central takeaway is the same. This is a pivotal moment.
It's now abundantly clear that North Korea's ICBM program is advancing very rapidly. The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency has already upgraded its timeline for when North Korea might be able to strike the U.S. with nuclear weapons. Now, they may have to upgrade their assessment again.
This is a crucial juncture for another reason. Because it demands that the Trump administration rise to what is now an imminent threat.
As I argued last week and earlier this month, President Trump should immediately surge U.S. military forces into the region. Doing so would greatly upset the Chinese government and encourage them to take tougher action against the North Korean regime. These deployments would also give military leaders the tools to take immediate military action if necessary.
This isn't about posturing. I believe U.S. military action is no longer just feasible; it is a 50-50 likelihood in the next 12 months.
That said, deployments alone aren't enough. Trump should now affirm that the U.S. will shoot down any future North Korean ICBMs that cross the Sea of Japan and enter the western Pacific Ocean. The president must also make it clear that he is prepared to launch a preemptive nuclear strike if North Korea threatens the U.S. homeland.
I understand how that sounds.
And, of course, no one wants to consider the fact that using force might be necessary. That's an understandable reaction. Striking North Korea would be an immensely dangerous proposition.
Yet, we cannot continue to act with lethargy. Once North Korea figures out how to weaponize its ballistic missiles with nuclear missiles, it will be too late. At that point, there can be only three outcomes: a conflict that threatens nuclear retaliatory strikes on the U.S. homeland, a diplomatic breakthrough that disarms North Korea of its ICBMs, or appeasement.
The first option would obviously be disastrous. The second option would be much harder to accomplish once North Korea acquires nuclear ICBMs, and the latter option will only consolidate Kim and encourage Iran's efforts to follow in North Korea's ballistic footsteps.
As I say, we must not waste what little time is left. It's time to roll the dice in pursuit of a diplomatic solution.